§ MR. LEHMANN (Leicester, Market Harborough)
It is with an unaffected sense of the difficulty and responsible character of my task that I rise to move that a humble address of thanks be presented to His Majesty for his gracious Speech from the Throne, but I am sustained by the certain knowledge that in discharging this duty to the best of my ability I may count upon the generous indulgence of the House. I think if I might permit myself to characterise any portion of His Majesty's gracious Speech I should say that the distinctive note of the first part is one of peace and good will upon earth. It is a matter of the most profound and lively gratitude to us that His Majesty should be enabled to say that his relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be friendly. In that phrase we have the assurance that this nation, undisturbed by the fear of war, may continue to devote its energies and its resources to the task of peaceful consolidation and civic progress. We have all followed with keen sympathy and appreciation His Majesty's unwearying efforts on behalf of the great cause of international friendship and good will, and we realise how deeply we are indebted to 117 him. In this connection it is a matter of special gratification to us to know that the recent visit of the German Emperor and Empress to this country, while it was mainly of a private and unofficial character, has through the friendly warmth displayed on both sides produced results so eminently satisfactory to ourselves and to the German people. It must be the earnest hope of all patriotic men, both here and in Germany, that the friendly relations thus confirmed may never be weakened by mistrust or embittered by an animosity for which there is no warrant in the past history or present situation of the two countries. The announcement of the steps taken for the protection of Norway are specially agreeable to all who see in the peaceful and progressive development of the smaller nationalities one of the brightest hopes for the future of mankind. We rejoiced over the peaceful entry of Norway into the family of European nations, and we rejoice no less over the assurance thus given to her position and her prospects. I most heartily wish it were possible to speak in terms of warmer enthusiasm of the actual results achieved by the second Peace Conference at the Hague. Some of us cherished ardent hopes that it might be found possible by some form of agreement to limit armaments and thus to diminish the tremendous burden which weighs upon the peoples of the world. We have been forced to realise with deep regret that this has not been possible, but at the same time we must, I think, admit that the failure in this respect was in no way due to any lack of energy or initiative either on the part of His Majesty's Government or of the distinguished representatives of His Majesty at the Conference. No nation accepts these burdens joyfully; each submits to them with reluctance and from a sense of overpowering necessity, the pressure of which can only be removed by some kind of international agreement. At the same time I think we may congratulate ourselves that the principle at least of an International Court of Appeal in Prize Cases has been established. Such a Court, with the authority which it must necessarily command, will at any rate remove one of the chief causes that tend to drag nations into quarrels with which they have primarily no concern. If, as 118 I hope, the Conference in London, of which His Majesty has spoken, takes place, we may look to it to set up on a firm basis the code of international law by which the Court itself will be guided in its deliberations. At the same time I may be permitted to express the hope that the occasion for such deliberations may not soon arise. There is one dark cloud over the outlook in Europe, and that arises from unhappy Macedonia. Even if we wished it, we in this country cannot avoid our share—our heavy share—of the responsibility for what is taking place in Macedonia. It is in no small measure due to the course of action taken by this country nearly thirty years ago that Macedonia owes her present condition, given up to anarchy, and having, it appears, little to hope for from the unassisted action of the Power that controls her destinies. Here again, I realise that it is only by agreement between the great Powers concerned that any amelioration can be brought about, but I venture to urge, too, that this amelioration is long overdue. We shall look forward with lively interest to the disclosure of the further proposals made by His Majesty's Government, both to the Sultan and to the other Great Powers concerned. With regard to India I can only say I have heard with profound concern and distress His Majesty's words about that country. At the same time I am perfectly confident that everything that can be done here will be done to assist those whose duty it will be to grapple with the famine on the spot and to bring relief to the sufferers.
Before I pass to the consideration, for a few brief moments, of the legislative programme unfolded to us in His Majesty's gracious Speech I should like to say a few words with regard to the loss which this House has sustained since we were, last here. I refer to the death of the Attorney-General, Sir John Lawson Walton. Sir John was an old friend of my own. We had known one another from our early days at the Bar, and since then I have followed his career with admiration—admiration for his firm grasp of principle, his extraordinary mastery over detail and his wonderful power of lucid exposition. But there was something more 119 than that; there was something in the genial and friendly character of the man that endeared him to the hearts of all with whom he was brought into contact in this House. It must be some consolation, I think, to those more intimately connected with him who mourn his loss to reflect how highly he was appreciated here and how affectionately we cherish his memory.
I especially welcome in the legislative programme which has been unfolded to us the words in which it is stated that proposals will be brought forward for making better provision for old age. In principle I take it there is no difference between the various sections of this House as to the desirability of some measure of old age pensions. A considerable number of years have passed since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, whose continued absence from our debates we all deplore, brought this proposal into a region closely adjoining that of practical politics. Since then it has been discussed throughout the country. It is most ardently desired by the great mass of our population, and we are glad to know that His Majesty's Government propose to embody it in a practical form so that men who have played their part in building up the State by their toil, often under hard and barely tolerable conditions, may hope when old age and weakness have sapped their energies that the State will at last make some acknowledgment of their efforts. With regard to licensing, I hope it will be possible, indeed, I believe it will be possible without injustice to anyone, to frame and to pass a scheme by which the nation will receive its due share of a monopoly value and by which something will be done to further the cause of temperance. With regard to education, two principles will, at any rate; we may be certain, be embodied in any Bill that may be brought forward, and these are that where a school is sup ported by public money there must be full public control and secondly, that in that school there must be no religious test for teachers of any grade. I should have lilted to refer to the measure which is to be brought in extending and reforming University education in Ireland and to have said something about the housing 120 proposals which are the necessary complement of the land legislation passed last session, but I am warned that I have trespassed long enough on the attention and indulgence of the House. Before I resume my seat, however, I should like to thank the House very earnestly for the kindness and consideration it has shown me in the task I have performed. I beg to move.
MR. W. H. DAVIE (Bristol, S.)
said he esteemed it a high honour to be asked to second the Motion both to the city he, represented and to the municipal life in which he had been so lung engaged. He was sure the House welcomed the return of the Prime Minister to health, though his brother's affliction kept him away from attendance. They could not feel any surprise at the reference in His Majesty's Speech to the condition of affairs existing on the Congo, for the humane feelings of this country had been deeply stirred by the atrocities that were reported to have taken place there. If the experience of every Member of the House had been similar to his, there must have been thousands of resolutions passed in this country, urging the Government to intervene for the protection of the native population, and he could but sincerely hope that the Government, would watch the proposals for the change of Government, now being made, to ensure the intentions of the Berlin Act were carried into effect. He wished to say one word with respect to one of our very old Colonies, the Colony of Newfoundland, in regard to which there had been many diplomatic questions which successive Governments had had to face. He hoped that the Government might succeed in getting the United States to agree to the proposals they had made, and that the remaining fishery disputes might be referred to the International Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He was quite satisfied that any settlement which might be arrived at by such means would afford far more satisfaction to the Colony than any endeavour to settle international relations by the direct intervention of the Imperial authorities in London. They were reminded in the Speech from the Throne of the failure of rain and the likelihood of famine in one of the 121 great centres of the Empire; he referred to India. That was a matter which all must regret. It was remarkable how little the people of this country heard of the devastating famines which occurred from time to time in this portion of our great Empire. Anything of a sensational character was telegraphed to London from India at considerable length; for example, an indiscreet utterance of a Labour leader provoked long telegrams and much comment in our public Fress; but of this famine tragedy affecting millions of our Indian fellow-subjects who were perishing for want of food, little was heard. It was, however, satisfactory to know that our countrymen in India were attacking plague and famine with determination and courage, and that Britons were doing their duty under depressing conditions, and were, indeed, shewing themselves the heroes of peace, deserving to have their services recognised as they had been in the gracious Speech from the Throne. If it were possible the House would be only too glad to send a message of sympathy to our stricken fellow-subjects in India, expressing the hope that their time of tribulation might not be unduly prolonged. The House must be impressed with the variety and importance of the domestic proposals of the Government. They touched the life of the nation at almost every point—youth, middle-age and old age. It was not a subject of surprise that the Government were again returning to the subject of education, because they knew that nearly every Liberal Member at the last election had pledged himself to vote for such an amendment of the Act of 1902 as would bring it more in harmony with the consciences of all classes. Also there were many Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House who had pledged themselves to put forward some Amendments for this purpose. The failure to settle the question in 1906 was not dishonourable to the Government. They had made a brave attempt, but this session they were returning to it in full knowledge that it was a question which bristled with difficulties. He was sure that everyone must desire to see an early and permanent settlement arrived at, as it was 122 embittering associations within the Christian Church which should be friendly and cordial, and by long unsettlement the question tended towards the exclusion of the Bible from the day schools of the country. On these grounds he appealed to the House to show a spirit of charity towards the proposals of the Government and to help this long-delayed question to reach the stage of permanent settlement. No Government need apologise for taking up the question of licensing reform, and he thought that any scheme of licensing reform proposed which tended to lessen the drinking temptations of the people would be heartily welcomed and cordially supported. They were all glad that the President of the Local Government Board was proposing to deal with the housing difficulty, both in regard to clearing slum areas in our cities, where bad housing encouraged the drinking habit, and also in rural areas as a complement to the Small Holdings and the Allotments Act of last year. Many of our large cities possessed congested districts which were festering sores in their midst and a disgrace to our civilisation, and anybody who would tackle this question firmly and boldly would win the esteem of his countrymen, while if he could alter the complexion of our cities by doing away with these congested areas altogether he would do more for the country than by adding to the bounds of Empire. He welcomed also the prospect of seeing old-age pensions established. For a long time past responsible politicians had dangled the pension scheme before the old people of the country. These old people had been waiting long and patiently for the fulfilment of the promise; and now the House was glad to learn from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the foundations of this scheme were to be Lid this session and it was to be on a non-contributory basis. The House must realise that many of the old people who had qualified by length of years for such a pension had not worked for what was now recognised as adequate wages, but had given the best of their lives for a very inadequate return indeed. These people had helped to 123 build up the wealth of the Empire and they fully deserved any little pension they might receive. Before concluding he would like to say one or two words about the Bill to be brought in by the President of the Board of Trade dealing with the Port and Waterway of London. Before alluding to that, however, he might be permitted to say how cordially and thankfully the House had welcomed his right hon. friend's intervention in the cause of industrial peace. His right hon. friend would have a difficult task in grappling with the problem of the. Port of London, but he was a man of great courage and tact and the House was confident that he would deal with it in a way which would result in great benefit to the interests concerned. The Port of London was not at the present time so fully or so well equipped as many of the ports in the north-west of Europe. A great deal of our trade had been filched from us by reason of inadequate facilities in the Port of London for cheap and quick handling of goods in transit. If the President of the Board of Trade was able to reconcile the varied interests of the Port of London and secure one governing body for this great port he would undoubtedly confer a great benefit on the commerce of the country. He had now only to thank the House for the courteous attention which it had accorded him and to con-elude by seconding the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "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.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
I am sure that I only express the general sentiment of the House, certainly for hon. Gentlemen on this side, when I offer to the two hon. Members who have 124 moved and seconded the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne our congratulations on the manner in which they have performed the task—in my opinion, by no means the easiest task that falls to hon. Members in this House. They have carried out their task with great tact and discretion, and they have most scrupulously maintained that ancient and excellent rule which lays it down that the mover and seconder of the Address while fairly holding by their Party feelings should, as far as this occasion is concerned, refrain from a display of the controversial methods which are customary at other times in the debates among us. Both hon. Members have fulfilled their task in a manner which, to us at least, shows that they bore the ancient rule carefully in mind, and they have fully acted up to it. I associate myself with some remarks that fell from the mover of the Address with reference to the late Attorney-General. His tribute to the memory of that distinguished man was graceful and eloquent; and I am sure that it will find an echo, not merely among those who were politically associated with him, but among those who for many years sat opposite to him, and who had in that position, perhaps, as good an opportunity as any who sat near him of appreciating his unfailing courtesy, his fairness to his opponents, and his ability in debate. I am sorry I shall not be able to-day to address myself to the Prime Minister. We all rejoice to hear how much better he is in health, and we look forward to seeing him at no distant date take part in our proceedings. We, however, quite recognise that in all probability he may not be able to take that full share of the conduct of the work of this House which he would naturally desire to take, and if that should unhappily be the case—I hope it will not—he may be assured that so far as we on this side of the House are concerned, we fully understand the situation, and shall do nothing to make the position—which in any case must be difficult—more difficult than it is. I understand that his absence to-day, however, is not due to any failure of health or strength on his part, but to anxieties having a domestic source, in connection with a very old Member of this House, a man who has many friends in 125 this House, many who would feel his loss, although he is no longer among us, very greatly and very deeply, and who recognise his long career of public service both at Westminster and in Scotland. I can especially speak for my Scottish fellow countrymen, who associate themselves with the general feeling of all Scotland, that, in the late Member for Glasgow University, Scotland still possesses one who has done very great service.
If I turn now to the substantive Motion which is before us, I ought perhaps to begin with one or two comments on that part of the Speech which deals with foreign affairs, and the first point on which I should like to say a word is the Anglo-Russian Agreement. I greatly hope that the Government will give this House some opportunity other than that which is afforded by the debate on the Address for discussing this Agreement. There was a day given for the discussion of the Anglo-French Agreement, and I am particularly desirous of abstaining from supporting an Amendment to the Address in this connection, because that at once gives a hostile and a party character to subjects which certainly I do not feel inclined to discuss in a hostile or party sense. I am well aware of the inherent difficulties of framing any Agreement between two great countries as to which there shall not be critics found in both countries who shall say "We have given everything, and we have got nothing." That is the inevitable danger which attaches to all these international arrangements, and it is one against which I wish particularly to guard myself, as I entertain the strongest opinion as to the value which such international Agreements may have in the cause of good relationship, of the easy working of international affairs, and even, in the last resort, in the cause of peace. But I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I put certain difficulties to him with regard to this Agreement, will feel that we, perhaps, have some right to hear from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs a fuller account of his objects and of the way in which these objects may be attained, than is contained in the despatches laid before Parliament, and that we should also have an opportunity of developing difficult- 126 ties and criticisms which I shall now briefly indicate, without, I hope, unduly pressing him. It is not very easy to see what it is that has been exchanged between Russia and Great Britain. It is clear that we have given up or abandoned certain positions which we occupied, but it is not clear that the Russians, so far as I am aware, have abandoned any position that they have ever occupied. That may or may not be a serious matter, but there are aspects of it which suggest serious consideration. For example, Persia has been divided by the Agreement into three zones: one that may be described as the Russian zone; one that may be described as the British zone; and an intermediate space which may be described as the neutral zone. We have, quite apart from the military and defensive interests which we have in Afghanistan and India, great trading interests in Persia, and, to those of my friends who have looked into this matter, is appears as if the terminations of all the great trade trade routes in which our trade is interested have been by this arrangement placed within the Russian sphere, and to be placed within the Russian sphere means, and is intended to mean, that under certain circumstances they shall be placed under the dominating control of Russia. If anybody will study the map, he will see that I have not overstated the case. I have certainly no desire to over-state the case, but I suggest that it gives considerable anxiety from the trading point of view. I would specially notice that there is nothing in the whole arrangement between us and Russia which suggests that the interests of open markets have been carefully kept in view by the Government in relation to the great outlet for Indian and British goods which Persia supplies. There is an arrangement that Russia and Britain are to be on equal terms with regard to any trade or commercial interests in Afghanistan, but I see nothing in this Convention which preserves the interests of British trade in Persia, while I sea that the interests of that trade are apparently and on the face of it threatened by the fast that within the limits of the Russian sphere of influence are all the great terminations of these great trade routes, which are now occupied by British and by 127 Indian enterprise and commerce. I am frankly puzzled by the arrangements about Tibet. My own view about Tibet is that the less we or Russia have to do with it the better. While, of course, we could tolerate no European power in Tibet, still the last thing I personally should advise any Government to do unless absolutely driven to it, is to interfere in the internal affairs of Tibet. It is a fact that Tibet is on our frontier, and it is not always easy to avoid having relations with a nation on our frontier, but Tibet is 2,000 miles from the nearest part of Russia, and it is a little puzzling to see why no distinction should be drawn in this Convention between the position of Russia as regards Tibet, and the position of this country. There is one other point on which I hope something will be said by the Government, not necessarily to-day, and that is connected with the Persian Gulf. Everybody knows—nobody better than the Secretary for India and the Secretary for Foreign Affairs—the position which successive British Governments have taken up with regard to the Persian Gulf. There is nothing said in the body of the agreement with Russia about the Persian Gulf at all. There is mention made of the Persian Gulf in the covering letter of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in which he informs us that he has repeated to Russia what has often been said to that great country before, that we take the keenest interest in all affairs of the Gulf, and Russia appears to have given a verbal kind of negative assurance that it does not dissent: I have not got the exact words, but it is a very negative kind of agreement or assent to the statement of the Secretary of State. The whole purpose of this Agreement with Russia is to place formally upon record an international instrument or treaty on certain matters which might conceivably cause a division of opinion or friction between the two Empires. Is it not unfortunate that we should have excluded from this formal treaty, and left in the relatively obscure position of a mere verbal statement, something which has always been regarded as so vitally affecting the Imperial interests of this country? We have had plenty of verbal statements from Russia with regard to her relations with Afghan- 128 istan and Persia, and they have not been considered sufficient by the right hon. Gentleman, not because he wishes to throw doubt upon the trustworthiness of Russian statements, but because I believe, in the view of Russian diplomatists themselves, there is a great distinction to be drawn between a formal treaty and a mere diplomatic and verbal assurance. Then why is a diplomatic and verbal assurance the only thing given us with regard to the Persian gulf? Why has the Persian Gulf been excluded from the formal treaty, and left in the admittedly unsatisfactory position from which this Agreement was intended to rescue it? These are difficulties which I venture very respectfully to put to the right hon. Gentleman and to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. There is one other point in connection with foreign affairs on which I must speak, and that is the Conference at The Hague. I think it was the hon. Gentleman who moved the address who frankly stated how far short of his expectations and the expectations of many of his friends the actual results of that Conference had fallen. We must all recognise that those who anticipated some international arrangement which would relieve us of our great burdens of defence must indeed be bitterly disappointed. I confess I never was one of the number. I attach the greatest value to what was done in past times at The Hague. I am an optimist in regard to international relations in the future. I believe the great work, dating back for many years, and which the late Government had the good fortune greatly to develop, of international arbitration, has already prevented, and will in the future prevent more and more, wars which do not spring out of it tolerable wrong or causes which a nation feels cannot be dealt with by any third party or any arbitrator, however well intended. These wars are few and they are diminishing; but others arising out of smaller matters of friction which may defeat the best-intentioned Government will be more and more dealt with in the future by those principles which have been embodied in the growing number of cases which I rejoice to think have been made the subject of international arrangement. 129 But, while I am a great believer in this international arrangement, I think we are still far removed from the ideal which the Government in their most sanguine moment cherished for The Hague Conference. What is the solitary result of that Conference? Or, at all events, what is the only result which the Government have thought it worth while to embody in the Speech from the Throne? It is the adoption of an instrument "establishing the great principle of an International Court of Appeal in prize cases." Has not The Hague Conference in this matter put the cart before the horse? They have established the principle, as they call it, of an international tribunal; but they have not established the law which that tribunal is to interpret. And that is absolutely of the greatest importance to this country, which, whether we look at it from the point of view of the neutral—a position which I hope we shall always occupy in war—or from the point of view of a possible belligerent, is more than any other nation concerned in the administration of the law of belligerent rights at sea. I am the last person to say that the existing laws do not require amending. They have become in many cases antiquated through the mere alteration of the conditions which govern sea commerce, through the growth in the size of ships, which makes the investigation as to their contents a matter of extreme difficulty, through the fact that the great lines of mail steamers have become the commercial arteries joining different parts of the world, through the fact that steam has taken the place of sails, through all those changes and the immense industrial revolution which have made the existing conditions of maritime commerce absolutely different from those which prevailed during the great war when the law was determined. I cannot say, therefore, that the existing system does not require to be amended. But you do not say that you will be able to settle a revised code. On a given occasion, as I understand it, the tribunal will set to work to do its best with the existing law, about which there is great difference and great doubt, and which, by a perverse tribunal, may be twisted in the most embarassing manner to injure our rights, whether as neutrals 130 or as belligerents. I hope his Majesty's Ministers will refuse their adhesion to this part of The Hague treaty unless they can get, before it comes into force, some code of maritime law settled, which, from no selfish point of view, and no isolated point of view, but in view of our general interests as the greatest; sea Power in the world, is absolutely necessary for our safety. I do not say that this international tribunal may not ultimately work extremely well, but a great deal has to be done before it does work well; and when I remember that The Hague Conference failed to deal with that which is the greatest of all the dangers now affecting neutrals in time of war—the danger of floating mines, which may affect thousands of innocent lives and hundreds of thousands of perfectly legitimate cargoes not one of which can be maintained to be contraband of war—when I remember that the Conference was impotent to settle this great issue, I confess I look with considerable alarm, or at all events with considerable doubt, to the issue of that conference of the great maritime Powers to which, in the language of official optimism, the Government allude in the course of this gracious Speech. There are some other points connected with external or Colonial affairs to which I should like to refer, but I do not wish to take up the time of the House. I will only say as regards South Africa and the question which has taken up so much public attention in connection with British Indians that I understand there is to be an Amendment moved, and we on this bench may, perhaps, reserve what we have to say upon that question until that Amendment is moved. I may just ask one question with regard to a matter which I brought before the House last year—the subject of the New Hebrides Convention with France on indentured labour. I do not on this occasion desire to deal with this at undue length. I made my points before; and I do not wish to rub them in unnecessarily. The House will remember the arrangements of the Convention respecting the labour of adults and young persons of both sexes involving repatriation at the end of the term of service. There remained, according to the Government, a great deal to be done 131 by way of subsidiary regulation in connection with that Convention. Now I want to know what has been done by regulation? Has anything been done by regulation to mitigate the dangers which are incident to a system under which you compel young boys and girls, as well as adults, not with their own consent, but by the consent of the head of the tribe, to come in under a system of indentured labour? We know of the protests of our Australian colonies regarding the absence of some regulations, and the evil character of some other regulations. Have the Government done anything to get rid of these evils? If there are new regulations have they been carried out in concert with the French, or in opposition to the French? Are there any regulations to modify the admitted evils—I put it mildly—of the treaty, and if there have been new regulations are they regulations which apply both to the French and to the English, or only to the English employers of indentured labour? If they apply to both French and English well and good; if only to the British I would then point out to the Government that they have thereby destroyed one of the great advantages which they proposed to themselves by framing this extraordinary treaty; because one of those objects was that there should be a uniform set of regulations to prevent injurious competition, and, if there are two sets of regulations, you will have that very competition which the Government gave as one of the most serious evils of the practice in force before they took the matter in hand in the spirit of philanthropic consistency with the view of bringing up the employer of indentured labour in that part of the world to the high standard of civilisation which they have set before themselves and the country.
With regard to the proposed legislation for the session, the first observation I would make is that the list of measures which the Government have put before us is either not intended to be carried through in the course of the session, or, if intended to be carried through must be carried through under conditions which will make free debate in this House quite impossible. I remember 132 the Prime Minister, or it may have been; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, telling us last session how impossible it was for any Government, or for the permanent officials, to carry out their work, if the whole of the autumn was occupied by those controversies incidental to a Parliamentary autumn session. Is it possible to carry this programme through without an autumn session? Is it possible to carry it through with an autumn session unless you are going to continue a system which has grievously curtailed liberty of discussion. On this point I would make an appeal to Gentlemen who do not belong to the minority with whom I am connected. It is only this House which can safeguard its liberties. You can get no sympathy or support from outside these walls. You can, no doubt, evoke popular cheers for a Government which is credited with vigorous suppression of obstruction, and so you can by denouncing a Government for gross interference with debate, but the public do not understand our procedure, and it therefore rests with the House itself, and with the House only, to deal with these matters. The minority are helpless, of course; they, as is their duty, may express to the best of their ability the dangers of the situation, but they have no real power of exercising any control against a Government majority, nor do I for a moment expect or desire that a majority should show its Parliamentary power of showing disapproval by voting in the Lobby. It cannot be done in that way, I admit; but I do earnestly desire every man who has the future of the House at heart to urge the Government—who I do not believe in their hearts really require urging—to try to find some system which will enable the House to discuss and vote upon the main propositions in legislative proposals. We really have no such way now. Grand Committees may have many merits, but not that. It is only by a legal fiction that a Grand Committee is a microcosm of the House; it is not the House, and it cannot be made the House. I do really think when I look at the Government's programme, quite apart from my views upon it, that the Government, calling us together at the end of January, cannot hope to get through that programme without the use of violent methods, which 133 they themselves, I am sure, deplore, and I feel moved to appeal to the House not to allow the process of Parliamentary decay to go further than it has already gone. I do not in the least wish to treat this as a party matter; it is in no sense a party matter. I speak to those who have not had the long experience in the House that I have had, but who have as great a desire at least that this House should remain a great free theatre for open discussion, where the minority shall have an equal chance with the majority of making itself heard, as it has been in the past. Of course, I am not going through the Bills; I will wait until I see those products of Governmental ingenuity before I say more upon them, but I must just say one word about the Irish University Bill, not because I wish to make any comments upon its substance, but because I think the procedure adopted by the Government is really extraordinary. It will be remembered that the present holder of the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland took up his task just before we met last year. At that time, Mr. Bryce, a Cabinet Minister, sketched for the public his idea of a new University for Ireland, and, not content with that, he told the world that that was the plan the Government would adhere to and which must be taken or left, as he put it. Well, Mr. Bryce having nailed his colours to the mast, the right hon. Gentleman the present Chief Secretary came into office and proceeded to haul down those colours.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, I am not quite right; he proceeded to get some one else to haul them down. The somebody else was the Provost of Trinity College. Is not that a very extraordinary proceeding? We first have the Government announcing a certain policy as irrevocable and unchangeable, and then we find them revoking and changing it, and, not content with this revolutionary procedure, and notwithstanding this, they abstain from announcing a change in their policy themselves; they put up somebody else—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is that not so? I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the last thing I meant to do was to misinterpret the transaction. I thought that the Provost of Trinity College, speaking on behalf of the right hon. Gentleman—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I entirely withdraw. I was completely misinformed as to what the Provost of Trinity College said, or else he was misinformed as to the mandate given by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not know which I should accept.
§ MR. BIRRELL
The Provost intimated to me that he was going to Manchester to make a speech, and I am bound to say that I rather gathered from his letter that he would not have been averse to have been allowed to state what he knew through private conversations as to what were my conceptions. He distinctly understood that he had no such authority for a statement unfolding; the measure of the Government. I rather imagine that he put it entirely hypothetically, that if the measure proved to be of such a character he thought it should be accepted by Trinity College. I did not ask him to make any statement.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I advise the right hon. Gentleman to look at the speech made by the Provost of Trinity, and he will see whether or not the action taken by that learned friend of mine conformed with his instructions or the want of instructions, or was formed on the pattern I indicated to the House just-now. But, at all events, I absolve the right hon. Gentleman of all complicity in this strange method of reading a Bill for the first time in public. If we turn now from the legislative proposals of the Government, on which I now say nothing more to the administration since we parted, I am obliged to make reference, and it shall not be a long one, to one or two points, and the first Minister upon whose administration I should like to say something is the right hon. Gentleman who presides over the Board of Education. 135 That right hon. Gentleman, I am quite sure, has the interests of education at heart, but I think his administration is really the most cynically partisan of any I have ever known. The first procedure to which I should like to call attention is the action of the Education Board in regard to the voluntary schools at Swansea. I do not think it is denied that the local authority in the first place refused to carry out their duty for the maintenance of those schools and by the payment of the salaries of teachers. The second point is that they had no legal title to refuse to make those payments, and the third point is that the Education Department knew that, and yet for several consecutive months, unless I am misinformed, the managers had to pay out of their private resources the salaries of teachers which ought to have been paid by the local authorities, which the Board of Education knew ought to have been paid by the local authorities and which they had power to make them pay. For three or four months or more the right hon. Gentleman sat quietly in his office allowing the law to be broken, because the victims were the managers of voluntary schools; and the whole procedure seems to show that he regarded it as an administrative duty to make the task of voluntary school managers as difficult as it could be made. Well, that is one question. Among others there is the notorious question of the £100,000 which the right hon. Gentleman, contrary to the accepted principle of the Treasury, contrary to the accepted doctrine laid down year after year by the Committee on Public Accounts, and contrary, as I believe, to law, got into the Appropriation Bill without any safeguard whatever. I am not going on the technical point but upon the substantial point, going back to the matter I raised just now in relation to the privileges of the House, and a principle which has ever been regarded as of the greatest importance, viz., that money shall be voted for specific purposes and applied to those purposes. I am not aware if any regulations have been laid down to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from spending the whole of the money in his own constituency or in any other constituency he might desire 136 to favour; or to prevent him from distributing it among those with whom he might happen to agree theologically or politically, in this county or that county, this parish or that parish, at his own sweet will, without any principle of Parliament or control of the House, with an absolute freedom amounting to licence, and, as I say, repugnantly to the spirit and traditions governing the management of national finance. Then if I wanted a third point—it is one of which much will be heard during the session—I should find it in the extraordinary methods adopted for dealing with trusts in connection with training colleges. I am not going to argue now whether it is a good or a bad thing to give to those to whom is entrusted the education of youth in this country the chance, at all events, of receiving religious training in some training college in conformity with their own theological views. It is manifestly just and expedient, and, if necessary, I could quote the doctrine of the late head of the Education Office pointing in that direction. But I will not argue the merits of the question now; it will arise later in connection with education. But the right hon. Gentleman, having started his policy of starving out every training college which did not conform to his particular views with regard to religious teaching, was met by the legal difficulty involved in the trust deeds under which these colleges were built. What does the right hon. Gentleman do? He says, "Oh, it is quite true I am Minister for Education, and as Minister for Education I choose to lay down the principles on which this public money is to be given, and to penalize any college, whatever be the implications or the implied contracts under which it was built." If he is told that the trust deeds of the schools are inconsistent with his principles, he says, "Well, then, I am not only Minister of Education, but I have got judicial duties as the heir of the Charity Commission, which is itself the heir of the Court of Chancery, and in my quasi-judicial capacity I shall modify these trusts, not in accordance with law which the Court of Chancery or the Charity Commission has to administer, but according to my views, according to what I should like training colleges to be." It has 137 hitherto been found possible in this country to give these judicial functions to the head of an office and to be confident that they would be administered judicially. After these proceedings of the right hon. Gentleman, who can have that confidence in the future? I think he has done much more than to commit the gravest injustice upon the training colleges. He has shaken confidence in a system which, on the whole, has worked well, and which—I daresay he has the best intentions—by his extraordinary and arbitrary violence he has twisted to his own political ends.
Well, the only other comments I have to make on the administration of the Government relate to law and order in Scotland and Ireland. Many of us have been rather surprised at the apparently very divergent and independent lines taken by different Ministers in the Government. Each appears to have had his own policy, which he has pursued with very little regard to the general policy of the whole Administration; but there is a happy conformity of ideas between the Scottish Secretary and the Irish Secretary with regard to certain questions of law and order. It is quite true the Scottish Secretary only deals with what he calls an elaborate experiment on a small scale in the Western Hebrides; but be has, in common with the Irish Secretary, succeeded in persuading the law-breakers in that part of the world that they have the sympathy of the Government behind them and that they are not doing anything very wrong, after all, in breaking the law and invading other people's property. The Chief Secretary, I admit, has made a full statement within the last few months as to the gravity of the outrages in connection with cattle-driving in Ireland; but he is also perfectly aware that some of the answers he save in this House and authorised to be given in another place were of a kind which might produce in the evildoers the idea that the Government favoured their proceedings, and which in fact did produce that idea. I think that is a most deplorable state of things. I am not now going into details with regard to the Government of Ireland or of the Western Hebrides, though I 138 hope on that latter subject we shall be allowed to have the printed correspondence between Lady Gordon Cathcart and the Lord Advocate and the Secretary for Scotland, especially in connection with the Scottish legislation the Government have expressed their intention of re-introducing. As regards Ireland, we propose to make that the subject of an Amendment to the Address, and I do not think I need proceed further now; but even the Chief Secretary will admit that the condition of Ireland at present is, from his point of view, deplorable. He told us last year in an often-quoted phrase that "minorities must suffer." Minorities, no doubt, must suffer, but there is some suffering from which it is the business of a good Administration to save them. I do not think minorities should be made to suffer by having their cattle driven. I do not think that they should be made to suffer by being shot in the legs. They should not be made to suffer by being so boycotted that they can neither live nor be buried. The right hon. Gentleman knows well enough that his refusal to use the powers he has at his disposal to see that the law is obeyed has ended, as everybody acquainted with Ireland must have known it would end, in giving such a licence to the powers of disorder as has made in large parts of Ireland the threat of outrage sufficient and outrage itself unnecessary. I think that is a most serious state of things. The right hon. Gentleman almost seemed in a speech he recently delivered to be desirous of founding on the failure of the British Government to maintain law and order a case for the Resolution in favour of Home Rule which I understand is to be proposed in the course of the next few weeks. The right hon. Gentleman represented himself as a solitary and pathetic figure in Ireland, as the one representative of British good will in that country. I do not doubt the right hon. Gentleman's good will to Ireland, but I do not think he is more solitary than other people, or more pathetic.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I beg pardon. The right hon. Gentleman is right. He 139 said he was an isolated and solitary figure—not a pathetic figure. The right hon. Gentleman has got a task which everybody knows is a difficult task. It is a task which can only be accomplished by using all the means at his disposal. To accomplish it the right hon. Gentleman must set himself earnestly to work with no view to any ulterior arrangement of the British Constitution of which he may happen to be in favour. This idea that on the failure of the Government responsible to Parliament for the maintenance of order in Ireland you are going to found a case for Home Rule is utterly repulsive and repugnant to all that is best in the feelings of our countrymen. You may persuade them—I hope you never will—that the cause of justice requires separation; you may persuade them that by such a separation Irish prosperity and English and Scottish prosperity may be promoted, but you never will persuade them that merely because you are not strong enough to see that the minority is preserved from outrage, because you are not vigorous and courageous enough to see that the law of the land is carried out, and that it is the law of the land and not the law of the League that is feared and obeyed throughout Ireland—on that foundation you never will get the people of this country to acquiesce in the change you propose.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not propose for the moment to discuss any further the question of crime in Ireland, because an opportunity will be given by our procedure to do so next week. It is sufficient now to indicate the gravity of the situation as I regard it, and to make this brief preface to a debate which is of vital importance, not in any interests of party, but as touching the bed-rock, of civilisation in one of the most important parts of the United Kingdom.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
In the regretted absence of the Prime Minister, which, I am sure, will excite in all quarters of the House the sympathy 140 which the right hon. Gentleman opposite expressed at the opening of his speech, it falls to my lot to say a few words—and they will be very few—in reply to the interrogatories and criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition. Before I touch on controversial matters let me associate myself and all who sit on this side of the House with the well-merited tribute which the right hon. Gentleman has paid to the manner in which my two hon. friends have discharged the responsible task assigned to them. They are both of them well equipped for the purpose—my hon. friend the Member for Leicestershire by that training in literary art which in days gone by has contributed so much to the gaiety of the nation, I and which, I hope, he will continue to exercise in days to come: and my hon. friend the Member for Bristol, by long and close experience of commerce and municipal life. I am sure the House will agree with me that the general result of their efforts will certainly serve as a model for those who come after them. The right hon. Gentleman made one other personal allusion upon which I will venture to comment, although I have great difficulty in doing so. I mean the almost immeasurable loss which the country, and his friends in particular, have sustained by the removal of my very dear and distinguished friend Sir John Lawson Walton. I can speak with a great deal of intimate knowledge of his career to which few other persons are entitled to lay claim. He and I were born in the same year, called to the Bar in the same year, we for years went the same circuit, we took silk on the same day, and we were associated throughout both our professional and political lives by the closest sympathy and community of interest. I cannot adequately describe what a gap he leaves in the lives of those who had the privilege, as I so long had and to such an exceptional degree, of possessing his close friendship. I pass from these personal matters to deal first of all with the criticisms which the right hon. Gentleman has made, I am bound to say in a spirit of the greatest temperateness and moderation, of that part of; the King's Speech which deals with our foreign relations. The right hon. Gentleman devoted some part of his speech to the Anglo-Russian Agreement, 141 and he asked—and I think it was a perfectly fair question—that without the necessarily controversial machinery afforded by an Amendment to the Address some opportunity should be given for the discussion of the many points of interest which arise in connection with this Agreement. In the absence of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister I do not like at this moment to make an absolute and definite statement, but I will say that the request seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable one, and I hope an opportunity will be given—though I cannot give a strict pledge—and that at no distant date, for the discussion which the right hon. Gentleman invites. In the meantime let me deal very briefly with one or two criticisms he made. I am not disposed to scan the terms of the Agreement with that close and minute weighing of quid pro quo which would apply to a commercial bargain. The object of the Agreement was to remove a standing source of difficulty and danger to the peace of the world. If you once get the relations between ourselves and the great empire of Russia, so far as the continent of Asia is concerned, on a firm and friendly foundation, and arrive at a definite understanding, I cannot help thinking that many of the clouds which in days gone by have overshadowed the horizon, and sometimes brought us within measurable distance of conflict, will no longer appear. So important does it appear to the Government—without sacrificing any substantial or real British interest—to obtain a real definite agreement with Russia, that personally should not feel we had in any way betrayed the interests of our country or been false to our stewardship if it were pointed out that in this or that particular quarter Russia had gained slightly more than we had. That, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, is the general spirit (Mr. BALFOUR: "Hear, hear!") in which a great international Agreement of this kind ought to be regarded. The specific points of the right hon. Gentleman resolve themselves into two. The first is his apprehension that by the division of Persia into what he describes as three zones, in two of which Russia and Great Britain respectively have what are called spheres of influence, there may be some risks to 142 the future progress and development of British trade. I believe a close study of the agreement will show that we have taken ample safeguards for our commercial interests. Within the zone or sphere of influence which is to belong to the Russian Government all British concessions have been most carefully safeguarded. As regards the actual territorial delimitation of the sphere we have reserved for ourselves, no doubt it is mainly governed not so much by commercial as strategical considerations, but in the other not marked out as the special, exclusive, or dominant sphere of either of the two Great Powers we shall enjoy in common with Russia and the rest of the world absolutely equal privileges and opportunities. The right hon. Gentleman criticised the Agreement for not embodying special provisions safeguarding our interests in the Persian Gulf as they have been defined by successive Foreign Ministers—by no one with more clearness and precision than Lord Lansdowne in the time of the late Government. My answer is twofold. The Persian Gulf, notwithstanding its name, is not exclusively Persian, a considerable part of it is Turkish; so that other interests and Powers come into view when you deal with the Persian Gulf. In dealing with Persia, however, Russia and Great Britain are practically the only two Powers with substantial interests, and we should have been travelling outside the scope and ambit of our agreement with Russia with regard to Persia, if we had included in it the Persian Gulf. But, although our interests in the Gulf do not come within the scope of the agreement, in order to make it clear that it is not to be supposed that we have in any way abandoned the position taken up by our predecessors, a contemporaneous declaration was made by my right hon. friend the Foreign Secretary and by our Ambassador when the agreement was signed and assented to by M. Isvolsky, and it must be taken as part and parcel of the agreement come to. Although the Persian Gulf is not mentioned in the agreement, Russia has assented to the view we have hitherto taken, and shall continue to maintain, of our interests in he Gulf As regards Tibet, that is a matter which could be more conveniently discussed 143 when we come to deal with the Agreement specially as regards Tibet. We conceive we have embodied in a formal, definite, written shape the very assurance the right hon. Gentleman demands—which Lord Lansdowne in his communications with the Russian Ambassador considered to be adequate and appropriate to the case.
I pass to what the right hon. Gentleman said about The Hague Conference. I regret to observe a disposition—an exaggerated disposition, I think—in many quarters, to belittle the work that was done there. A very great English writer—Burke—said that the main end and object of the British Constitution was to bring twelve honest men into a jury-box—though some people may think that rather an exaggerated view to take of the value of that institution which has been called the palladium of our liberties. But it is a great thing to bring the representatives of all Powers, great and little, round a table from time to time to discuss various questions of international law and policy, and to try to make some advance by discussion, even though at the time actual agreement in regard to some matters cannot be arrived at. I agree there are defects in the constitution of the Conference, and obviously there are still greater defects in some of its methods of procedure; but, nevertheless, in the view of the Government the time spent by our representatives at The Hague Conference was not thrown away. Although the results may not equal the anticipations the more sanguine among us formed, yet even when you come to judge the Conference by solid results, serious and substantial advance has been made in the direction which we all hope the world will gradually take. Notwithstanding the efforts which were made, no agreement was come to in regard to a point to which the Government attach the greatest importance—the compulsory reference to arbitration of such matters as matters of international law relating to the interpretation of treaties, which are pre-eminently adapted for that treatment. The Convention for the establishment of a Prize Court is really a very solid and fruitful achievement. Let me point out with regard to the 144 right hon. Gentleman's criticism that that particular Convention does not need to be ratified until June, 1909. The other Conventions must be ratified by June in the present year. The extra year was specially arranged for that Convention, because it was felt that this important preliminary question must first be determined before the Court can be called into useful being—What system of law is to be administered? As indicated in the gracious Speech from the Throne, the Government have arranged for a conference this year, at which we hope to arrive at something like a general agreement on the important general principles—the innumerable matters of subsidiary detail you can safely leave to a tribunal of this kind—of maritime and international law which in the altered conditions that now prevail ought to be generally accepted by civilized nations. In our view this is a condition precedent to the establishment and working of such a Court for any useful purpose. So much in regard to that, but then there are one or two other points which the right hon. Gentleman raised, referring to questions arising outside these islands. Let me say one word with regard to British Indians in the Transvaal, as to which I hear an Amendment is likely to be moved on the Address. I very much deprecate at this particular moment any discussion of that kind in this House. I do so for this reason. We have the best ground for hoping, as the result of negotiations now taking place between the different parties concerned, that an agreement will be come to between the Transvaal Government, on the one side, and the responsible representatives of the British-Indian community in the Transvaal on the other, by which the cause of grievance will be removed—by which, without the Transvaal sacrificing the policy upon which all the white races in that country are united, there will be removed what we have all felt in this country to be a serious source of disturbance and discontent among our Indian fellow-subjects. I am not in a position to say that these negotiations will necessarily be successful; but as long as there is a chance of such a result—and I believe there is a very good chance—I would anneal to the 145 House to abstain from discussion. As regards the New Hebrides, I think I can set at rest the disquiet of the right hon. Gentleman. Until the Convention which was the subject of so much acrimonious discussion last year, was made between France and ourselves, there were no arrangements of any sort with regard to the treatment of natives. The whole thing was a complete chaos, without form, law, or tribunals. Under the Convention England and France agree on certain general rules which were embodied in that instrument. We intimated in the course of our debates last year that we were not going to stop, and we have not stopped. Instructions have been issued—independent instructions—by each of the two Governments concerned to their respective Commissioners to guide those Commissioners in framing further regulations, the general spirit and object of which will be in accordance with the declarations so often made by my right hon. friend. These instructions shall be laid before the House without delay, I hope in the course of a very few days, so that the House may have an opportunity of scrutinising and, if need be, of criticising them, but the regulations themselves will not be framed until the Commissioners on the spot have had time to consider the best mode of carrying into effect the instructions.
And now, coming to our domestic concerns, the right hon. Gentleman attacked two branches—his survey of the situation did not encourage him to carry the war any further—and two branches only, of the administrative work of the Government. The first was that for which my right hon. friend the Minister for Education is responsible. Well, my right hon. friend will have an opportunity in the course of a day or two of replying in detail to the criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition, and I shall certainly leave him to deal with the question of Swansea, with regard to which the details I have are not sufficient to enable me to deal with it, but meantime there are two points raising questions of great constitutional importance, as to which I should like to say a word. The first is as to the vote of £100,000 last year. The right hon. Gentleman 146 seemed to regard that as an innovation in constitutional practice, and he attacked it as in some way removing from the control of the House of Commons the expenditure of public money. No such charge can possibly be made. The intention with regard to that vote of £100,000 was clearly explained by my right hon. friend at the time, and it was sanctioned by the House when they sanctioned the Estimates. At any rate, no attempt was made to challenge it; and with reference to what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that my right hon. friend might have spent the money as he pleased at his own will and pleasure within the limits of his own constituency alone, my right hon. friend has reminded me of the fact that Regulations were issued by him and his Department before the Appropriation Bill was introduced, in which the application of the money for certain specified purposes was laid down, and therefore there is no ground whatsoever for saying that the expenditure of the money was in any way withdrawn from the control of the House of Commons. And as regards the other part of the indictment—namely, the supposed arbitrary dealing by my right hon. friend with the trusts of the training colleges—is my right hon. friend the first person who has interfered with trusts? What about the Act of 1902? What about the Kenyon-Slaney clause? I remember very well, sitting then as we were on that side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman rising at this box and vindicating under the altered condition" of the time the right and even asserting the duty of Parliament to interfere with trusts which had become obsolete or inapplicable to present-day conditions. Therefore we are not the first to lay hands on the sacred ark. The right hon. Gentleman may say: "Oh! but that was done by Act of Parliament." I was speaking for the moment of the principle and not of the method, but if it is a sacrilegious thing to interfere with the intentions of the pious founder, the result is the same, whether it is committed by Act of Parliament or by a Minister of the Crown, acting as he must act—otherwise he could not keep his-place for twenty-four hours—with the assent of the representatives of the 147 people. But it is not true that the trusts were interfered with by my right hon. friend. What did my right hon. friend do? He proposed that in future that part of the taxation of the country which is appropriated for these colleges will be appropriated subject to certain conditions. If you do not choose to conform to those conditions, well and good; nobody will force you to do so; but the House of Commons can say we will not vote you the money. It was suggested the other day in the newspapers, and Aristotle was quoted to show, what a shocking state of things it was that the right hon. Gentleman should by administrative act set aside the settled statutory law of the land. There is no legislation of any sort or kind which deals with the conditions attaching to the subsidizing of the training colleges. It is a matter which has depended en, tirely, year by year for two generations-upon the will and act of this House, and if my right hon. friend, the House assenting, says that in future a training college shall not receive a grant except upon certain terms, we are not interfering with the provisions of any Act of Parliament. If they wish to continue to receive public money, they can on their own initiative put into operation the machinery of the Charitable Trusts Act, and then their trusts can be made more elastic so as to enable them to avail themselves of the aid of public money. But that does not compare in arbitrariness with the overriding by means of an Act of Parliament, in invitum, of the trusts of a training college. So much for the attack on education.
Then the right hon. Gentleman carried the war into the Irish domain. I assume that we are going to have an Amendment on the question of Ireland, and therefore I shall leave this matter to my right hon. friend to deal with and touch upon it only very briefly. What is the charge against my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary? As far as I can make out, it is that he has deliberately neglected the enforcement of the law and the maintenance of order in Ireland in order to make out or to help out a case for Home Rule. Is that the charge? I do not hear a very ready assent. That is what I understood the 148 right hon. Gentleman to suggest. If the allegation does not come to that I do not see what it comes to at all. He drew a picture of the terrible condition to which Ireland has been reduced under the fainéant administration of my right hon. friend. I entirely demur to that description. I think it is a caricature. That there are in certain parts of Ireland features which, from the point of view of social order, are disquieting I quite agree. I do not in any way minimise or palliate them, but the language which one reads in the Press, and to which the right hon. Gentleman very nearly approached in his speech, is wholly inappropriate to anything that has taken place in Ireland. We are asked, Why do you not put in force the Crimes Act? Why are you content with the resources of the ordinary law? I will tell the House the reason. We do not put in force the Crimes Act for reasons which are obvious to any one acquainted with the Parliamentary history of the last twenty years. For twenty years we have protested against the Crimes Act. We protested against it, not so much because of its actual provisions, but because, being a permanent Act placed on the Statute-book, it empowers the Executive, at its own discretion, at any time, in any circumstances, in violation of the best traditions of our Constitution, to use powers outside those of the ordinary law without coming to Parliament to make out a case. That was the head and front of the case we made in 1887 against that legislation when it was passed, and that protest we have continued to make against the continuance of that Act on the Statute-book. But I will put the matter to the test, and the test I put is this—would any Chief Secretary, with the facts and figures which are in the possession of my right hon. friend at this moment, have ventured to come down to the House and ask for the passing of the Crimes Act? I undertake to say that, while we have had many Coercion Acts, until the Act of 1887 they were all temporary measures passed for a limited time and at any rate pretending to be based upon some exceptional case of special emergency. I will venture to say that not for fifty years has any such Act been obtained from the House of Commons upon materials so flimsy as 149 those which they attempted to produce. The truth is that with exceptions here and there, and apart from what is called cattle-driving, there is very little serious crime in Ireland. There have been certain cases, as to which, be it observed, no Crimes Act would be of the least use, for the simple reason that the difficulty is not in obtaining a conviction, but in obtaining the evidence, and without evidence not even a drum-head court-martial can convict. I repeat that with those exceptions apart from cattle-driving, there is very little serious crime in Ireland. I do not palliate, and none of my colleagues have ever palliated, cattle-driving. I think it is not only a criminal, but a stupid act, because, apart from all moral considerations, it seems to be calculated to strike a very serious blow at a flourishing and necessary Irish industry. How have the Government dealt with cattle-driving? First of all they have used all the resources that the ordinary law placed at their disposal. But we are not content with that. We believe—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will think it mere sentimentalism on our part—that when you see manifestations of this kind going on over a considerable part of Ireland, undoubtedly it will be your first duty to enforce the law, to protect property, to maintain order; but you cannot brush such manifestations aside as if they were mere meaningless, motiveless horseplay—a kind of spontaneous outburst of original sin on the part of the Irish people. We believe you must try to discover something in the social and economic conditions of which they are the deplorable outcome, or to, at any rate, seek to explain the popular sympathy and want of popular condemnation with which they are received. When we look at these conditions we find something which appears to us—I do not say for a moment to palliate, but to lead us to understand—the illegal conduct, something which seems to call for an instant and effective remedy. There can be no doubt that the untenanted land, of which We are now speaking—I am now speaking of the grazing lands in Galway and Roscommon—did come and was intended to come within the scope of the right hon. Gentleman's Land Purchase Act of 1903. 150 This untenanted land could be purchased by the Estates Commissioners; it could be purchased by the Congested Districts Board. The process has been a slow one. The ardent hopes which were raised at the time when the Act was passed have been delayed or altogether disappointed; and in the opinion of the Government the time has come when this part of the Act should be strengthened by the application of compulsion in fit cases, and the untenanted land without injury or loss to anybody should be more freely available for the purpose of holdings. In the gracious Speech from the Throne there is an intimation of legislation for that purpose, and it will without undue delay be brought before the House. I do not deny for a moment that it is the first duty of the Executive to enforce the law, but second only to that, in our judgment, there exists the necessity of removing this legitimate grievance and of providing a better outlet for the hopes and the aspirations of the people of Ireland. Finally, as regards the observations I have to make on the right hon. Gentleman's speech, what is to be said of the charge as to the length of the programme? The right hon. Gentleman says that our measures are either intended not to be carried through in this session, or to be carried through without adequate discussion. With regard to that proposition, I need hardly say that I quite agree with him that it is a matter which interests all parties and all sections in the House that we should try by some common agreement to arrive at a better method of disposing of our time. The crude application of the guillotine year after year, by Government after Government, although it has become a Parliamentary necessity, is a necessity which, I believe, is nowhere regarded with more reluctance than among those who have reason to resort to its use. I hope that we may be able to come to something like a better agreement on the point. I am quite satisfied that, given a session of reason-able length, given a proper allocation of time—and by allocation I do not mean merely to fix the length of time to be given to particular stages, but the distributing of it in some proportion to the importance of the measures, and the 151 necessity of considering each of their stages—I believe, given a proper allocation of time and some useful kind of devolution, not only in respect of non-controversial Bills, but also of the non-controversial parts of controversial measures which are sent upstairs—in the combined operation of these methods we may find ample opportunity to discuss what I agree to be the extensive programme foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne. At any rate, we are going to make the attempt. While the Speech contains no surprises, it marks the progress we hope this year to make in redeeming our pledges and our assurances, and of translating the professions of the platforms and of the electoral contest into the pages and the chapters of the Statute-book of the realm. The right hon. Gentleman scoffs at our programme. It seems to him inflated beyond the legitimate dreams at any rate of Parliamentary ambition. I agree that, judged by the example which he himself set, it might be fairly described as open to the charge. But we believe that there is not an item in it which is not at the same time urgent and practicable. We appeal with confidence to the House of Commons, by efforts of sacrifice, zeal, patience, and resolute determination, to make this, as we hope and believe, a fruitful and beneficent session.
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
After what has been said in this debate, no one will be surprised that I am anxious to seize the earliest opportunity of discussing for a brief period the Speech from the Throne, and the programme set forth in that Speech, from the Irish point of view. The programme is an enormous one, and I do not propose at all to discuss it; for although my colleagues and I are most anxious to give any assistance in our power to the democracy in this country in obtaining reform, following thereby the traditions which have come down to us from the Nationalist representatives of Ireland ever since the days of O'Connell, at the same time we feel, everyone of us, that our real business here, I had almost said our only business, is not to promote measures of reform for Great Britain, but to obtain measures of reform for Ireland. It is inevitable that, from the 152 Irish point of view, this Speech from the Throne, as are all Speeches from the Throne, is disappointing and unsatisfactory. In this Speech there is no mention made whatever of the one great question which to our mind embraces all questions, all grievances in Ireland—I mean the question of Irish self-government. Some people may think that they are absolved from responsibility on that question by reason of the history of the Irish Council Bill of last year. I may remind hon. Members that the Council Bill was not proposed as a Home Rule measure; it was not proposed as a substitute for Home Rule, or an alternative to Home Rule: it was described to us as something of a quite different character, and whether it passed into law or whether it did not pass into law, in my humble judgment the responsibility remains the same upon all those public men who for the last twenty years have been publicly declaring their belief that the only solution of the Irish question is to be found in the concession of free and responsible government to the people of Ireland. I will not discuss the question of Ireland to-night at all, because; as the House knows I have given a notice of Motion on the subject, and I hope it will be possible on that Motion to have a full and adequate discussion. I trust, too, that the result of the Motion will be that an overwhelming majority of Members of this House will declare themselves in favour of the principle of Home Rule for Ireland. I shall make only one further remark on this question, and I am induced to do so by some-remarks of the Leader of the Opposition and by some remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I confess I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I do not take the same sanguine view as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it will be possible by arrangement so to apportion the time in accordance with the relative importance of the various Bills as to enable this House, in the course of one session, to deal with satisfactorily, to discuss satisfactorily, the whole of the measures—licensing, education, old age pensions and so on, I need not go through the whole of the list. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 153 Opposition upon this point, I claim, is an unanswerable argument in favour of Home Rule. The only possibilities that I see in this matter are those apparently which he sees, either that there shall be inadequate discussion, the loss of freedom of debate, and thereby practically the destruction of the glory and the power of this assembly, or, on the other hand some arrangement whereby this House will be relieved from the anomaly, the absurdity of dealing, in one and the same assembly with the local affairs of the various portions of the Empire. That is the only argument I shall make about Home Rule at this stage. I say that if the whole of this coming session of Parliament were to be devoted to Irish affairs alone, every minute of it would be wisely expended in discussing Irish grievances with the view to redress them, and the same can be said of Scotland, of England, and of Wales, and until this House makes up its mind to deal with the congestion of business and the whole operation of the Parliamentary machine from that] point of view, it is hopeless to expect by any series of new methods or any arrangements between parties—which is an impossibility—to make the machine work satisfactorily or well. The Speech from the Throne deals with two great Irish questions—after Home Rule, the two greatest of Irish questions—the education question and the question of land. I heartily congratulate the Government and the Chief Secretary on their determination to introduce a University Bill. I must say I regret that the Leader of the Opposition, especially remembering his own record on this question, did not address some more serious observations to the House on this question. What did he do? He taunted the Government with the fact that Mr. Bryce introduced a scheme and then went away, and that his successor changed that scheme. I think, however, he has some foundation for it. I myself have in Ireland made the same criticism on the action of the Government. But the same trend of criticism has been levelled at every Government for the past twenty or thirty years. The right hon. Gentleman declared when he went to Partick that he was in favour of a settlement of the question, 154 if only three conditions would be accepted by the Catholics of Ireland. The Catholics of Ireland, lay and clerical, agreed to the three conditions. Then he threw the question on one side, and said it would not be dealt with until there was absolute unanimity in the three kingdoms. The Leader of the Opposition has over and over again in recent years made serious contributions to the discussion of this question and he has admitted its gravity.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I regret that to-night when there is a chance of this question coming before the House under conditions which may lead to a settlement, when the Chief Secretary has before him every indication of a likelihood of support from various quarters, the Leader of the Opposition has not afforded to him some encouragement instead of taking refuge in the somewhat paltry recriminations which have taken place between the various parties upon this question. I hope the words of the Leader of the Opposition do not mean that he is going to throw obstacles in the way of a settlement of the question now. I sincerely hope that the fact that he made no serious allusion to the question is not to be taken, more especially in view of his own record, as an indication that he is going to interpose obstacles, but on the contrary that he will give assistance and encouragement in the effort which the Chief Secretary is going to make. The people of Ireland listened with the greatest pleasure and respect not long ago to the Chief Secretary when he made a speech in which he stated that his whole political career and position were staked on the settlement of this question. That statement appealed to the people of Ireland as an honest declaration, and the Chief Secretary may be quite sure that they will smooth his path as much as possible, and that those who have predilections on this question will be inclined to put them on one side. On behalf of the laity of Ireland, and on behalf of the hierarchy also, I venture to say that they will give him every assistance if he will enshrine in 155 his Bill the one principle of equality of treatment between Catholics and Protestants. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will introduce a satisfactory Bill. I would also urge him to introduce it at the earliest possible moment and not leave it over, because political life is very uncertain. [OPPOSITION cheers.] I was not thinking of the remote chance of the hon. Member for North Armagh coming into office in the near future when the Baileys of Ireland would be brought under his lash. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to introduce his Bill at once, and let us deal with this question. With regard to the promised Land Bill it is not easy to speak of it with any confidence, because unfortunately we have not seen the Report of Lord Dudley's Commission which has been for many years inquiring into this question. It is a great misfortune that that Report was not furnished a considerable time ago. I rejoice to see from the terms in which this matter is alluded to in the King's Speech that the intention of the Government is not merely to propose the acquisition of compulsory powers to deal with untenanted land in congested districts, but that they intend to deal with the problem of the ranches wherever congestion may be found throughout Ireland and not only in the West. I also rejoice to find that they do not propose to confine their Bill to that question at all, but to deal as well with the amendment of the Land Act of 1903 the necessity for which the experience of intervening years has made manifest to everyone who understands this question. Therefore this Land Bill must deal with the question of finance. The Government ought not to lose a single moment in getting hold of Lord Dudley's Report, or in framing their Bill and introducing it. It is no use blinking the fact that until some further legislation is passed the land war in Ireland in some of its most acute phases cannot be said to be at an end. The Leader of the Opposition managed in his references to the condition of Ireland to make the most sweeping charges with reference to the state of law and order and the state of crime in that country. I desire to say that in my opinion there is a deliberate 156 conspiracy on foot in this country to injure Ireland and to make party capital against the Government in order to damage the prospect of Home Rule by representing Ireland as at this moment in a state of lawlessness, anarchy, outrage, and crime. I say that that accusation is false. I admit that in some districts there is unrest and disturbance, and I will deal with that question in a moment. Let me first deal with this question of crime and outrage as compared with other periods of excitement in the history of Ireland in the last thirty years. It may be said to-day that Ireland is absolutely crimeless. I am now speaking within the hearing of men on both sides of the House who remember the state of Ireland in 1880 and 1881, and some whose minds go back and remember the state of Ireland in previous years. I say that no man who knows these things will contradict me when I say that by comparison with other periods of agrarian excitement in Ireland, Ireland at this moment is absolutely crimeless, and I thank God for it. I regard that as one of the greatest results of the great movement, set on foot by Charles Stewart Parnell, and I take credit to the National Party that they now can conduct great and powerful political and agrarian movements and at the same time repress crime, because the people have learned the lesson that crime and outrage tend to injure their cause rather than further it. Let me make another comparison. I say that judged by the official criminal statistics Ireland to-day is far freer from crime of all sorts than England, Scotland, or Wales. Take all forms of crime—of course, I mean in proportion to the population—take for instance murder, attempted murder, violence to the person, malicious injury to property, riots, injury to Catholics and intimidation—in fact you may go through the whole list in the Blue-book—and I defy contradiction of my statement that according to those figures crime in Ireland has been and is to-day at a far lower ebb than in either England or Scotland. We may be told that, although it is true Ireland is freer from serious crimes than this country, there is a class of crime in Ireland which you have not got in this 157 country, whose motive is agrarian and political. But are we to go into the question of the motives of crimes and offences? I remember being read a very serious lecture because I ventured to discuss the motive of an offence; I was told that it was improper and that no motive could be held to palliate a crime; but if we are to go into these motives, I ask if the agrarian or political motive is a worse or a baser motive than that which animates the ordinary criminal in his ordinary brutal offences! It may be said that these offences are preventable, and I admit it, but how? Are they preventible by repression? No; the whole history of your connection shows, the last thirty years especially, that John Bright was right when he said "force is no remedy," and that the only way to prevent these offences and crimes was to remove the cause and remove the grievance. You cannot get away from this fact, and all this loose talk by the Leader of the Opposition about anarchy and crime is of no avail whatever. You cannot get away from the fact that the amount of all sorts of crimes great and small is less in Ireland at this moment than it is in England or Wales. I have referred to conspiracy, and how does it work? I have recently been carefully watching it. Special correspondents have been sent over by some of the greatest papers in this country, and they have travelled all over Ireland, writing two or three long letters a week to their newspapers, all dealing with the state of anarchy and crime. They go down into a district which is admittedly in a state of unrest or disturbance, and they find some one offence has been committed there. They immediately write columns with great headlines about anarchy and crime. The illustrated papers take the matter up, and we have, as I exposed last session, faked photographs, by so-called respectable newspapers in this country depicting outrages in the very act of being perpetrated. In one case there was a picture of moonlighters with guns in their hands assaulting some women. When challenged about it this newspaper admitted that was not an actual photograph of such an occurrence, but that the moonlighters who had made an attack upon some house had obligingly assembled afterwards to have their 158 photographs taken and sent for publication to a so-called respectable weekly illustrated paper. Individual cases of crime and outrage, of course, there have been. I am not denying there is crime and outrage to be found in parts of Ireland—my point is that there is less proportionately than there is in this country, and if that be so it is an outrage and a crime to try and depict Ireland as seething with crime. There have been more cases of mutilation of dumb animals in the last twelve months in England than there were in Ireland, Recently, as the House remembers, there were some horrible cases here and there—cases of horses, cattle, and so forth mutilated and killed in England. What would have been said if, say, France had sent over newspaper correspondents to inquire into the state of things in England and having got hold of these isolated cases of maiming cattle they had flooded the papers all over Prance with sensational articles describing these offences, dressed up with all sorts of sensational details and under headings "The State of Crime and Outrage in England"? Why, you would have said that it was a dastardly and cowardly attempt to blacken the character of this country. Talk of intimidation! What would you have said if, in connection with a recent murder case in London, when a man of the name of Wood was under trial, and the witnesses who gave evidence had to escape for their lives, the streets were blocked day after day with thousands of people and scores of policemen who were endeavouring to get the witnesses away—the witnesses had to be smuggled out at a back door, and even then some of them did not escape violence—what would you have thought if the French papers had described that as a type of the kind of freedom there was in this country, and if they had published all over the country articles headed "Gross and Criminal Intimidation in England"? Again, I say, you would have said that they were engaged in a dastardly and criminal conspiracy to blacken the good name of this country. That is exactly what is being done in Ireland. I say it is being done from the basest of motives. It is being done for the purpose of bolstering up a political party, simply for the purpose of making 159 political capital against the present Government, simply for the purpose of endeavouring to hinder the Home Rule cause in future. It is said—it was said to-night by the Leader of the Opposition—that you have got cattle-driving in Ireland. There has been a great deal of most untruthful and ridiculous talk about this cattle-driving. People seem to think that it is a new and horrible invention. Well, it is as old as the hills. Anybody who is acquainted with the history of the movement in Canada before Lord Durham issued his famous Report will admit that it was a common practice in Canada for the so-called Nationalists to drive away the cattle of those opposed to them. For instance, John Wesley in his Journal said—The gentry are continually driving away hundreds, yea, thousands, by throwing such quantities of arable land into pasture what leaves them neither business nor food. Thus it is that men depopulate many parts of Ireland.And Archbishop Boulter said—Many persons have hired large tracts of land of 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 acres, and have stocked them with cattle, and have no other inhabitants on their land than so many cottiers as are necessary to look after their sheep and black cattle, so that in some of the finest counties in many places there is neither home nor cornfield to be seen in ten or fifteen miles travelling.And Swift says—These cruel landlords are every day un-peopling the kingdom by forbidding their miserable tenants to till the earth, against common reason and justice, and contrary to the practice and prudence of other nations, by which numberless families have been forced to leave the kingdom.But I do not want to go back to ancient history. The real cause of cattle-driving is to be read in what took place immediately before the famine. That fell visitation which resulted in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives from hunger and disease was followed by a compulsory system of clearances, not for non-payment of rent, but for the express purpose of driving all human beings off the land in order to turn them into cattle runs and sheep walks. In the thirty years from 1849 to 1882, according to Mulhall's Dictionary of Statistics, 452,000 families were driven out of the land, that is to say a couple of millions of human beings. I do not know whether I would be justified in 160 reading a few lines to the House from the famous declaration of an Irish Bishop of what he saw with his own eyes of clearances. He was Bishop of Meath, and Meath is one of the counties that is worst off in regard to the scarcity of population. The most Rev. Dr. Nulty says—In the very first year of our ministry as a missionary priest in the diocese we were an eye-witness of a cruel and inhuman eviction which still makes our heart bleed as often as we allow ourselves to think of it. Seven hundred human beings were driven from their homes in one day, and sent adrift on the world, to gratify the caprice of one man, who before God and man probably deserved less consideration than the least of them. And we remember well that there was not a single shilling of rent due on the estate at the time except by one man, and the character and acts of that man made it perfectly clear that the agent and himself quite understood each other. The Crowbar Brigade employed on this occasion to extinguish the hearths and demolish the homes of honest and industrious people worked away with a will at their awful calling until evening. At length an incident occurred which varied the monotony. They had just learned that typhus fever had two in its grasp. The people supplicated the agent to spare those homes a little longer, but the agent was inexorable, and insisted that the houses should come down. The ingenuity with which he extricated himself from the difficulty of the situation was characteristic alike of the heartlessness of the man and of the cruel necessities of the work on which he was engaged. He ordered a large winnowing sheet to be placed over the beds on which the fever victims lay—fortunately they happened to be perfectly delirious at the time—and then directed the houses to be unroofed cautiously and slowly, because, he said, he very much disliked the bother and discomfort of a coroner's inquest The appearance of men, women and children as they emerged from the ruins of their former homes, saturated with rain, blackened and besmeared with soot, shivering in every member from cold and misery, presented positively the most appalling spectacle I ever looked at. The landed proprietors in a circle round and for many miles in every direction warned their tenantry with threats of the direst vengeance against the humanity of extending to any of them the hospitality of a single night's shelter. The evictions which I have just described, and of which I was an eye-witness, must not be considered an isolated, exceptional event which could occur only in a remote locality where public opinion could not reach and expose it. Every county barony, Poor Law union, and, indeed, every parish in the diocese, is perfectly familiar with evictions that are oftentimes surrounded by circumstances and distinguished by traits of darker and more disgusting atrocity.And while this deliberated policy was going on, how did the London Times speak—If this goes on as it is continuing to go on Ireland will become very English and the 161 United States very Irish. When an English agriculturist takes a farm in Galway or Kerry he will take English labourers with him. The Celt goes, to yield to the Saxon. This island of 160 harbours, with its fertile soil, with noble rivers and beautiful lakes, with fertile mines and riches of every kind, is being cleared quietly for the interests and the luxury of humanity.Why do I trouble the House by going back upon these things? Because I say that you cannot understand the cattle-driving until you understand the circumstances from which it sprang, unless you understand the history of these great ranches. What has been the result of these great clearances? According to the agricultural statistics in Ireland, Ireland has the largest amount of cattle and the smallest number of human beings per hundred acres of almost any other country in Europe. Every decade from 1841 to 1891 the population has decreased and the number of cattle increased. Since 1800 up to this moment, that has been going on. Since 1860 well over three-quarters of a million of acres has been added to the grass land. From 1900 to 1901 there has been a decrease of crops of 30,608 acres, there was an increase in waste lands of 17,425 acres, and in pasture of 16,793 acres; and allow me to read a short description given the other day by an official of the Government of his experience in the county of Meath—A visitor to County Meath coming from Dublin by either of the railways is at once struck by the great stretches of grass land, the straggling houses here, and the apparent want of life: true, we have plenty of animal life, but the proportion of human life is small as compared with the former. There is no village seen till we go to the very outskirts of the county bordering on Kildare, West-meath, Cavan, and Louth; the rest of the country is given up to grazing, except small patches here and there. This state of things did not always exist, as seen by the small narrow ridges now covered over by a thick grass. Now, however, owing to many causes the land lies in grass and is entirely given over to the grazing of cattle. This is what a visitor would see coming from Dublin to Navan, and proceeding to Kells and Nobber the same kind of landscape is seen, but outside of these two places, if we travel further, a different class of land is met with—poorer land—land better adapted for tilling than grazing. Owing to the length of time the country has lain in grass tillage operations are almost forgotten. Pew of the younger generation are able to follow the plough; old men only seem capable 162 of this and they have their methods in keeping with themselves.What became of the people driven off these ranches? Large numbers of them migrated; large numbers of them no doubt died in great misery in the great cities of England or on their way to America—well, of those that remained, what became of them? They went out on the bogs and barren hillsides and got little patches of land and there they endeavoured to keep body and soul together, but they were unsuccessful. They have not been able to live on these patches. If they had had them for nothing they could not have lived upon them. They have only been able to live by coming over here for harvest labour. That is not denied. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover will not deny it. In his speeches in 1903 he admitted it, and he further admitted over and over again that the Bill of 1903, could not be a real and complete success unless the questions of untenanted land and congestion were successfully dealt with. Before the very eyes of these people living in this huddled and wretched condition there are thousands of acres of pasture studded over by the ruins of cottages and villages from which they and their forefathers have been driven. We asked, when the Act of 1903 was going through, for compulsory powers to deal with this question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover was more sanguine than we were. He believed it would be possible to carry out the intentions of the Act without compulsory powers. The Act was passed in that form, and now we know that in that respect the Act has failed and that unless compulsory powers are granted this land question will not be settled. It is nonsense to pretend that, unless this question is settled, you can have in those parts of the country peace, restfulness, and quietness. These cattle-drives have been, and are, entirely without crime so far as I know; and God knows it would have been known if the contrary had been the case. Not a single beast has been injured; not a single man has been wounded or attacked in connection with these cattle-drives. I say, therefore, that we will have to consider the causes 163 of this unrest and the circumstances out of which it springs; and the fact that these demonstrations have gone on without outrage or bloodshed of any sort. And you will agree with me when I say that while I would be glad at all times to preach patience, it is no wonder patience has been exhausted when they have had to wait five years for the result of the promises of the right hon. Member for Dover, and after months have waited in vain for the report of the Commission to which they have been looking for a settlement of the question in the direction I have mentioned. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave utterance to a most extraordinary fallacy. The right hon. Gentleman says—This is an attack on a prosperous industry.Does he mean to say that Ireland is richer and better off with plenty of bullocks than if the land were tilled? Why, it is not arguable! Let me read what Sir Horace Plunkett says in a leaflet issued by his own party. This leaflet deplores the increase of area of second-class pasture, and I think I am right in saying that most of these ranches are second-class pasture which would yield four times the wealth if tilled; he deplores the complacent satisfaction with which the present system is regarded; and he goes on to say that the breaking up of this land would most certainly increase the national wealth, supply wages of labour, and check emigration. Further, the writer goes on to declare that this second-class land should be utilised under a system of mixed farming. Now, I have gone at some length into this question of outrages in Ireland and of cattle-driving, because, as we have had a foretaste from the Leader of the Opposition on this question, I thought it as well to give the House a foretaste from us of the debate which is coming on. There is only one remedy possible for the state of things in Ireland, and that is to remove the grievances from which the state of things arises. Parts of Ireland, I admit, are restless and disturbed; indeed, I may say with some truth that all Ireland is angry and disappointed by the accusation that there is in Ireland a general 164 state of outrage and serious crime. That is a cruel and false accusation. The Chief Secretary has been denounced in this country most freely because he refused to put the Crimes Act in force against cattle-drivers. Well, I congratulate him most heartily on having the courage to withstand that clamour. Most undoubtedly if he had yielded to it he would have courted disaster; and no man can say what the state of Ireland would have been in the near future if he had been foolish enough to go back: on his own declarations and the pledges of the Government, and set in force against the people of Ireland the provisions of an Act which is a disgrace to the Statut-book and would not be tolerated for twenty-four hours if attempted to be put in force in this country. I say, Let the Government go on boldly with their policy. Let them introduce their University Bill immediately. Let it be a Bill on the principles of equality. Let the Chief Secretary use his influence with the Dudley Commission to produce their Report without delay. Let him frame his Land Bill and then introduce it immediately into Parliament. I would go further and say, Let the Government no longer shrink from putting their Home Rule convictions fully and frankly before the electors of this country. In this way only, I believe, can disaster in the immediate future in Ireland be avoided; and in this way only can they advance the cause of good order and government to which, I believe, they are sincerely attached.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I have to offer a few observations on the gracious Speech from the Throne from the standpoint that appeals so forcibly to those with whom I am associated on these benches. But be ore proceeding to my immediate point I should just like to notice two gene al paragraphs in the first part of the Address, and say in behalf of those with whom I am associated that we welcome most heartily the references to the policy of the Government in regard to Macedonia and the Congo Free State. No section of the House can be anything like satisfied with the condition of affairs that has existed in those part; of the 165 world far too long, and every section of the House will be gratified if the policy of the Government assists towards a more humane administration of the law in these countries and secures a more happy condition of things there than exists at present. References have been made as to the length of the Government programme for home legislation. I do not think that anyone sitting on these benches can for a single moment profess to associate himself with the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition on that point. We are in no way alarmed by the Government's bringing before us on this occasion such a large and comprehensive list of measures. What we are more concerned about is this: Does the Government intend to place these promised measures on the Statute Book during the current session? Those of us who, long before we came into this House, took an interest in politics and specially in social and industrial questions, have learned that all previous Governments, like the present Government, have had the unfortunate knack of placing before Parliament at the opening of the session a large number of measures, and at the close of the session we have had to deplore the fact that there was nothing but promises so far as many of the measures were concerned. The Leader of the Opposition, when dealing with this point, was very much concerned about the traditions of this House. I think all sections of the House are concerned about its traditions, but some of us are more concerned about making the House a machine which will do effective work in turning out legislation which will meet the needs of the nation. There is something more important than safe-guarding the traditions of this House; regard must be had to the backward condition of social and industrial legislation, and we must be prepared to concentrate our best energies in adapting the legislative machine to meet the public wants. As to the programme which has been criticised, the first thing I notice with satisfaction is the declaration of the Government that they intend to make some provision for old-age pensions. We welcome most heartily that declaration, for we are convinced that the crying 166 needs of the aged poor have been far too long neglected by both Parties in Parliament. I have more than once thought that the gentlemen for whom the Leader of the Opposition spoke would almost require to be commiserated with when we know how long they dangled this question before the great working-class population of the country. I remember the prominent position in which they placed this question in their social programme in 1894, and I think they are to be commiserated with that during the ten years they afterwards held office they never redeemed their promises, and now the opportunity will have gone for ever. Do the present Government intend to give us a scheme of old-age pensions adequate to the needs of the people of the country? I must say that we have had declarations from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the subject. I remember myself being one of a deputation which waited upon these right hon. Gentlemen during last session, and the assurances we obtained on that occasion were of a most definite and encouraging character, but during the last week or two some of us who are deeply interested in this question have been rather alarmed by a speech delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It may be that we have misinterpreted that speech; but in doing that we were not alone in the political world. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we have been correct in interpreting his speech as conveying the suggestion that the poor are going to have heavier burdens imposed upon them, because of the scheme of old-age pensions coming into operation? If that is the intention of the Government then so far as I can speak for those on these Benches, I must say, and say with all the force I am capable of, that any such proposal will be resisted with all the power we possess. We feel that the burdens of the poor are sufficiently heavy, especially when we read about the wages of great masses of the people of this country. We saw a return only two or three days ago which showed that over 100,000 workmen on our railways receive less than £1 a week, and the Wiltshire agricultural labourer in many instances I believe—I am 167 quoting from an agricultural return—receives 11 s. a week. When we remember how from their £1 a week or 11s. a week they have to contribute so much to the taxation of this country, by the process of taxes indirectly levied, I say that, representing as we do so immediately the wage earning classes of the population, we are bound to resist, with all the facilities the forms of this House will permit, any attempt to increase the burdens of the poor, and to add to their economic embarrassment. I should like to know before leaving this subject if the Government are prepared to stand by the very definite declaration made by the Prime Minister on November 20, 1906, when he said that—He agreed that the only satisfactory method of dealing with the question was by a universal plan by which a pension should be paid to anyone who applied for it, with of course certain well understood exceptions.The right hon. Gentleman also said—He was against contributory schemes"—
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I am delighted to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say "Hear, hear!" I expected it because I was present at the deputation, and heard him endorse the statement of the Prime Minister, and his cheer now is an indication that some of us have misread his speech of the other day. To return, the Prime Minister said—He was against contributory schemes because they involved inquisitorial machinery altogether inconsistent with the best traditions of the country and the thoughts of the people. Far from a pension sapping independence or undermining thrift it would do the opposite. It would give a sense of security and strength to men and women through life to know that, at all events, some provision was assured against the day of feebleness. Therefore any scheme must be universal in its application and it must be done by the State which alone had the money. He assured the deputation that the matter would be dealt with as soon as time and money permitted.We trust, therefore, that the scheme of the Government will be in the strictest harmony with the statement made by the Prime Minister, and that the Government will devise an acceptable system. We also welcome the intimation on the 168 part of the Government that they propose to deal with the question of the miners eight hours day. The Party with which I am associated, along with the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, feel very strongly on this question. We remember that a promise was given to us a year ago, and a Bill was introduced, but not proceeded with. We trust that this year it is the definite intention of the Government, not only to introduce that Bill, but to pass it into law. The other measures, very much of a social character, such as licensing and housing, town planning, and the endeavour to give some education to the children of this country, all have our most hearty approval, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman we shall be prepared to give the fullest possible assistance to the Government by staying, not only during the greater part of the year—because reference has been made to the possibility of an autumn session—but by staying here for as many hours per day as they care to work the House, because we feel that for far too long these important measures have been delayed. I am not going to make any further reference to what the gracious Speech contains, but I want to make allusion to one or two points which it does not include. I should like to ask in all seriousness how it comes that there is no reference to the question of extending the Provision of Meals Act to Scotland, especially having regard to the very definite pledge which the Prime Minister gave on the closing day of the session of 1906. It will be remembered that on that occasion we had before us the Reports of the Amendment to the Bill in another place. They had struck out Scotland by a vote of twenty-eight to nineteen. We were given a promise that something should be done. I pressed that something should be done last session, and I was told that an effort would be made to deal with the question in the Scottish Education Bill. Last session, also, we introduced our own measure. What did we find? It went upstairs to a Committee, and I think I am right in saying that the Member for Leicester, who was in charge of the measure, got the most definite assurance from the Secretary for Scotland that our Bill would be included in the Scottish Education Bill. We remember the result 169 of the introduction of the Scottish Education Bill. It was not persisted in, and although we had the definite promise of 1906 and the subsequent promise of the Secretary for Scotland in 1907, now at the beginning of the session of 1908 there is not a single word as to the intention of the Government so far as that question is concerned. I do hope that the Government will have some satisfactory explanation to offer. It may be that they propose to introduce some Bill that is not mentioned in the King's Speech.
§ MR. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I am delighted to learn that that is the case, and I hope that the Bill to apply the Provision of Meals Act to Scotland will be among the number, and therefore I need not dwell further on that question. I also regret that in the reference to the work of the session there is no Bill for establishing wages boards in connection with sweated industries. That is a measure that I believe public opinion is thoroughly ripe upon. I believe that the serious evils arising from underpaid work throughout the country and the serious condition of the sweated worker, which have been brought out so prominently in connection with the various exhibitions that have been held, have aroused a strong desire and feeling that something should be done to assist in providing such a machinery as will tend to mitigate the evils of sweating. I hope I can interpret the position to be the same as that in connection with the feeding of children, and that this will also be one of the many measures that are not enumerated in the King's Speech, but will be introduced. I am aware that there is a Committee sitting on this important subject, and I see no reason, in view of the fact that the representative of the Home Office has now returned and can be placed in the witness box at the commencement of our work, why this question could not be handled, as was the Provision of Meals Bill two sessions ago, before the present session closes. There is one more point that it is absolutely essential that I should mention. I refer to the great 170 question of unemployment. I admit that the two subjects of which I have spoken, the feeding of children and sweating, are of very great importance, but I do not think there is any part of the social question to-day that is so grave, so menacing, as the condition of thousands in this country arising from unemployment, which every day becomes more menacing. I learn from the last issue of the Board of Trade Gazette that there exists 272 unions having an unemployed membership of 6.1 per cent., compared with 4.9 per cent. in 1906. Now, if we work this out, we come to this result, that approximately there must be in this country to-day something like 500,000 people who are compulsorily unemployed. In the engineering trade alone we find that there is unemployment to the extent of 6.4 per cent. in 1907, whereas in 1906 it was 4.1 per cent. in shipbuilding it is, in 1907, no less than 14.2 per cent. as compared with 11.3 in 1906. These figures connected with the unemployed almost startle us, but there has been a tremendous increase within the last few months in pauper statistics. From The Times newspaper published a few days ago I learn that in London the total number of paupers is 129,590, an increase of 5,612 over 1906 and 1,143 over the previous week of this year. At Woolwich, we find that there is an increase of 888; Bermondsey, 844; and Poplar, 1,074. These figures. I think, very clearly prove that there is a very menacing condition of things existing among our wage-earning population to-day, and when we remember that the Government incited hopes of giving a genuine unemployed measure two years ago, and severely condemned the existing Unemployed Workmen Act, we think they ought to deal with this subject. I have with me a quotation from one right hon. Gentleman who occupies a seat on the Government Bench—I mean the Postmaster-General. He said on 6th October, 1905, at Mill wall—The prolonged depression in trade necessarily brought want of employment. From the beginning he had endeavoured to treat this question on non-party lines. Mr. Long's Bill would have gone some way to deal adequately with this urgent and difficult question, but, as usual, the Government had not the pluck to stick to their guns, and at once retreated on the outcry of their supporters, and 171 so mutilated the Bill as to make it unworkable and of little use. They had raised legitimate hopes in the minds of the genuine unemployed and then cruelly dashed them to the ground.That is exactly what the present Government has done. In the King's Speech of the first session of this Parliament the Government declared their intention of introducing a Bill for amending this defective Unemployed Workmen Act, but this is now the third session, and it has not been passed. Last session there was no mention of it, and neither is there this session, although the Government know that the present Act has almost broken down. As the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has said of it, it is a machine without motive power; a motor without petrol or petrol that has to be picked up by the way. Knowing this, we think the Government have encouraged hopes and cruelly dashed them to the ground. We have so far as our constituents are concerned—I mean by "our constituents" the million workers represented at our Conference last week—received very definite instructions. Our instructions are that everything possible must be done to have this, the greatest of all social questions, dealt with during this present session. We do not agree that this question shall be delayed until we have a revision of the tariffs. We believe that the demand is too great; that the danger is too imminent. We believe if you allow your population of unemployed to increase—and at the present time, as I have said, it is somewhere near 500,000—you will have an almost tin-controllable army of unemployed, than which the country cannot be exposed to a greater danger. Therefore, I sincerely trust that we shall have some assurance from the Government that if they cannot themselves introduce a Bill to deal with this question they will take hold of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Leicester last year, which is shortly, I hope, with the help of the ballot, to be re-introduced this session, and use that as a basis, moulding it more to their own liking, for providing machinery which shall be effectively used in the case of unemployment. My last word is with respect to the inspection of our mines and factories. I regret very much that the Government has not seen 172 its way to institute an inquiry into the system of the inspection so far as mines and factories are concerned. My hon. friend the Member for Leicester has in two successive sessions upon the Home Office Vote raised this important question. We find the number of accidents owing to industrial pressure is on the increase, and, therefore, although we have a Compensation Act passed, we do not feel that that in itself is sufficient. We believe that prevention is better than cure. As my hon. friend the Member for Woolwich has often said, it is not after all much satisfaction to a man to receive compensation when his wife is a widow. We want prevention, and we believe that if we had a more perfect system of inspection in our factories some of these accidents could be pre-vented. If we can prevent loss of life, if we can prevent men and women being maimed in such accidents, that ought to be one of the first things to which the Government should give its attention. I should therefore like to suggest to the Government whether they cannot, during the present session, institute an inquiry into the whole question of inspection. If the Government will deal I firmly and boldly with the legislative programme which they have outlined, they will find those for whom I speak ever ready to sacrifice their time and to assist them in making their measures effective for their purposes.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said there were many points in the speech of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle with which he most cordially agreed, but he regretted that the hon. Member did not refer to some other paragraphs of the Speech from the Throne. He had been in Parliament many years, and he had heard many Speeches from the Throne, but he did not think he had ever heard before a Speech from which the commercial interests of the country had been entirely omitted. There were eight paragraphs in the Speech, yet there was not one which dealt with the commercial condition of the country, the case of employment or the state of the labour market, and certainly not one relating to the point upon which the hon. Member for the Barnard Castle division had spoken 173 so eloquently. He desired to emphasise and enlarge upon the facts and figures which the hon. Member had quoted, and his authority for so doing was the publication issued by the Board of Trade. The statistics of the Labour Gazette referred to only a comparatively small handful of the trade unions of the country of the higher class, dealing with only some 640,000 workers. Yet out of that small number there were no less than 6.1 per cent. unemployed. But if that was the condition of things among these higher trade unions, how much more serious was the condition among those trade unions none of which made returns to the Board of Trade and among whose members the percentage of unemployment was double, treble, or even quadruple—in the unskilled trades of the country! Employment was slack or declining in the engineering, textile, shipbuilding, wood-working, tailoring, hatting, pottery and leather trades. A great deal had been made of the labour bureau, but what had been the result of it? How many applicants had succeeded in obtaining employment through it? For 3,700 situations there were 13,564 applicants, and many of the situations obtained were just casual labour for a day or two. In every one of the thirty-five districts referred to there was an increase of pauperism. In a single day in the middle of December, 1907, there were no less than 395,497 people being supported out of the rates. In round numbers, 400,000 were being supported out of the poor rates, and everyone who represented working men—and they all represented a large number—every one who was familiar with the working class population knew how reluctant they were to bring themselves under the Poor Law, and how great must be the sufferings which they endured before they were content to be ranked as paupers. If we had nearly 400,000 being kept out of the poor rates, that was in itself a serious matter; but the state of affairs in the country which made such a condition of things possible was still more serious, especially when with this increase of pauperism there was at the same time an increase in the price of commodities and more especially of the prime necessaries of life consumed by the working classes. He had no desire to introduce into the discussion anything that 174 would give rise to a difference of opinion upon this matter, but he wished to bring to the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the official facts. In every one of the twenty-eight largest towns of Great Britain, except Huddersfield, the price of bread had increased during the past year. In Manchester, Middlesbrough, and Aberdeen it had increased by l½d. and in the other towns by 1d. per quartern loaf; In Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds and Manchester it was 6d. per loaf; in London and Liverpool, 5½d.—an increase of from 20 to 30 per cent. as compared with 1902, when out of the registration duty the Exchequer was receiving £7,000 a day to add to the revenue. This was the fact not only with regard to bread but also in the case of other prime necessaries. What steps had the Chancellor of the Exchequer taken to deal with this situation? The right hon. Gentleman had done nothing. He had omitted all reference to this condition of affairs in the King's Speech and proposed no measure to deal with it. He allowed it to go on although he admitted the evil. As the Labour Gazette said, the price of coal had increased last year at the rate of 16.8 per cent. That was, perhaps, very beneficial to the coalowners, who were largely represented in that House, but in a severe winter the increased cost of coal pressed heavily upon the poorer classes of the community. Not only had the price of coal, a great factor in the industrial life of the country, gone up for the bulk, but it had gone up relatively higher for small quantities, perhaps a cwt. at a time, purchased by poor people. An increase of 2d. or 4d. a cwt. made a very great difference to the working man with a family, and whose employment was very precarious. To such people it might mean a difficulty in keeping the fire alight at all. The Returns showed that coal had been exported from this country to foreign countries in the past year to an amount representing about £14,000,000 or £15,000,000. We had the good fortune in this country to have a practical monopoly of the coal which was fitted for the steam navies of the world. A tax of 1s. a ton had been placed upon the export of coal, and it had brought in a very large revenue indeed; but that had been taken away, and he wanted to 175 know how it was going to be replaced. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was in urgent need of money to carry out old-age pensions, which they had all of them been most anxious to bring about for so many years. The real difficulty had been to obtain the money. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he saw a way of getting the money, well and good. But who paid the coal tax? The foreign consumers; it was they who had given this country an enormous increase of revenue, which was of immense advantage to the whole country. But that had gone. And what had been the result of the present increased price of coal? In many places our trade and manufacturing industries were in a very serious condition. Profits were becoming less and less, wages were going down, and employment was becoming more and more difficult to obtain. What was the Government's remedy for this state of things? Apparently one remedy which the Secretary for War had—and he supposed he acted in conjunction with his colleagues—was to send orders out of the country, and to employ American trust companies to equip the British Army and to shoe the horses of the British Army. On the closing day of last session, the Financial Secretary to the War Office was asked whether an order for £100,000 worth of horse shoes had recently been placed by the Department in America. The hon. Gentleman said the answer was in the affirmative, and added that in the interests of economical administration he could not stop supplies which were satisfactory as regarded both price and efficiency. He remembered that the hon. Member for Barnard Castle made a speech in which he expressed his strong disapprobation—a disapprobation shared, he believed, by Labour Members, certainly by all the industrial population—of the policy of the Secretary for War, in placing these orders for horse shoes with an American company, when so many farriers, so many connected with the horse industry, were out of employment. The conduct of the Government in this matter and the conduct of the Secretary for War, had not only excited disapprobation among many of their supporters in that House, but also among the electors, as the Government had already found out, 176 and probably would find out to their cost. Looking to the returns, he invariably found that it was during the administration of right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they found this system followed to an extraordinary extent. For the year ending 31st March, 1907, the Government had placed orders for no less than £519,000 worth of goods which could have been perfectly well obtained at home. But no effort had been made to obtain them in this country, and they found the Secretary for War priding himself upon reducing the cost of rations for the Army by £40,000 or £50,000—thus upsetting the policy of his predecessor, that the British Army should be fed as much as possible on home raised meat—saying: "I do not know, and I do not care, where they come from so long-as I save a few thousand pounds." The right hon. Gentleman talked about the cost of battalions, but what about I the battalions of farmers and labourers and people thrust out of employment, whose living was rendered precarious by this policy of giving preference to the foreigner over our own countrymen? It was a small matter, but he found in the return £71 for benzoline billiard balls. This was an isolated order for spare sets of billiard balls. They ordered the billiard table here, but they took care to get the billiard balls from America, though good billiard balls could be obtained in this country. The Government, in fact, said that they enjoyed the employment of workmen in American factories. This action on their part deserved censure and reprobation, but if they persisted in that conduct he could tell them that they would find many more examples of an election which had recently taken place, and which would, no doubt, bring them to a saner state of mind. He purposely would not go into details as to want of employment: there would be other opportunities of doing so, and of stating the remedies for that evil. He wanted to see some vigorous and firm action on the part of the Government, to put a stop to the evil, which was disclosed in all the Government returns, that had been laid before them by the new Chairman of the Labour Party in that House. He wanted to know what the; Government's definite plans and projects 177 were, what it was they proposed to do in order to put a stop to non-employment, and for improving the welfare of the industrial population. There were some details in the measures proposed which were calculated to improve the condition of the working classes, but nothing which would affect the question of non-employment. It was to that he wished the Government to direct their attention, because he shared to the full the observations made by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle when he said that this was the really important question before the country, and if the Government were unable to find a remedy, let them give place to better men who were ready to, and could do something.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said he thought that if the Government wanted a certificate of character they could not do better than refer to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield, who was an old Parliamentarian, and an able debater. As far as he could make out, the Government had bought some billiard balls in America; but he would not go into that question, because it would be unfair to say that that was the main fault which was found with the Government. The main fault found with them was that various commodities were very much dearer than they were a few years ago. But that was not peculiar to this country. For the last year or two, in France, it had been found that commodities had risen to even a much greater extent than in this country, and there were similar reports from Germany, in fact from all over the world. But did the hon. and gallant Gentleman really believe that commodities would be any cheaper if he taxed them as he proposed to do? He thought that question alone disposed of the hon. Gentleman's argument. He had not risen, however, to go into these matters, but to call attention to the peculiar circumstances attending Scottish legislation promised in the Speech from the Throne. There were only two Bills mentioned with regard to Scotland, and the curious and he believed unprecedented thing was that those Bills had already been passed by the House of Commons. Both the 178 Land Valuation Bill and the Small Land Holders Bill were passed last session by overwhelming majorities. They were considered in Committee by all the Scottish Members, and all the details were thoroughly discussed and passed by large majorities. Why were these two Bills mentioned in the present Speech? Because they had been rejected by the House of Lords. Now the reason so far for refusing to pass them was that those Bills went against the will of the Scottish people, who did not wish for them. That might or might not be so. It was I true that they had heard of Bills being passed for Scotland, and being promoted in Scotland, that were unpopular. In such cases the people of Scotland affected by these measures immediately protested most vigorously against them. Public meetings were called and resolutions were passed condemning them. Had I any such thing happened in reference to these measures? Speaking for his part of Scotland, he did not think a single open meeting had been called at which a resolution condemning the Small Land Holder's Bill had been passed. In his experience no Bill had ever been so thoroughly discussed as the Small Land Holders Bill. It followed, therefore, that Scottish members representing rural constituencies must know the opinion of the electors in regard to this Bill better than almost any Bill of recent time. That Bill was again going to be submitted to the House. Did anyone imagine that Scottish Members who had got to look to the support of their constituents were going to vote for the Scottish Bills mentioned in the King's Speech if they thought Scotland did not want them? What had happened in Scotland during the autumn was overwhelming proof that the Scottish people were almost unanimous in their desire for such legislation. Personally he thought it was quite possible that they might also have an Education Bill for Scotland. There was one thing, however, he wished to warn the Government against; he hoped they would not bring forward any Bill that they could not pass. Scotland in the past had been too much accustomed to measures being brought forward and afterwards dropped. He trusted that whatever might be the nature of the Education Bill, whether it was large or small, the Government would not attempt to bring 179 it forward if it had to be dropped like so many of its predecessors.
§ MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)
said he wished to refer to the question of the establishment of a large dockyard on the eastern coast. Upon this question the policy of the Government appeared to have been changed. The great fleet which used to be kept in the Mediterranean had now been transferred to the North Sea. It was considered on all hands by the naval authorities that the North Sea was the place in which operations on a large scale were more likely to take place than any other, and experiments had been made to find out the most suitable place for the establishment of a dockyard, where the ships of His Majesty's Fleet could be repaired. He was aware that Sheerness might be described as a dockyard on the East Coast, and it had been supposed to be suitable for the repairs required for the North Sea Fleet in the past. They had to remember, however, that enormous ironclads of the "Dreadnought" type could not be got into Sheerness, because there was not a sufficient depth of water. He understood that it was the intention of the Government materially to deepen the entrance to the Sheerness dockyard. Nevertheless, it would be a long time before that dockyard would be capable of receiving great ironclads and doing their repairs. At present, if large ironclads in the North Sea required repairs, they had to return to Portsmouth, and that might be a very hazardous and dangerous thing to do in the face of an enemy. Some years ago a site was pitched upon in the Firth of Forth which was considered suitable for such a dockyard as was required for the North Sea Fleet, and that place was Rosyth. Experiments had been made there testing the water supply and the nature of the rock, and inquiries had been made as to the expense and as to whether it would form a suitable naval base. He noticed that last year a very small sum of money was spent upon Rosyth, and the number of men employed there was really very trivial. During the autumn they had been informed that it had now been definitely and finally decided that the work at Rosyth was to be energetically commenced and that this would in future 180 be looked upon as the new great dockyard on the East Coast. He should have thought that a matter of such importance as that would have been referred to in the King's Speech. Had that been done he was sure the country would have greeted the announcement with satisfaction. They all agreed that it was necessary to keep a large fleet in the North Sea, and it was necessary to have a suitable place where the repairs of that fleet could be done. Of course, it rested with the Government to suggest such a place. He had hoped that the operations at Rosyth would have been commenced this year, but they would now have to wait until the Navy Estimates came forward when they would probably be told it was the intention of the Government to continue the operations at Rosyth. With regard to the drainage work at Rosyth, he hoped they would not make the same mistake as was made at Haulbowline and Keyham, where the original contract I stated that the material to be used should be Irish limestone, and later that stipulation was modified to English granite. The contractors were at last, however, allowed to use Norwegian granite, and that was the only material used at Haulbowline. He feared that the same thing might happen at Rosyth, and that would be a subject of great regret to himself and his friends who were of opinion that such work as this should be done with the best English material wherever possible. The Thames Embankment was an example of the kind of granite which could be obtained in England. When the Government considered the contracts which were now being given to Norway had they any idea of the wages paid to the Norwegians who cut the granite? Did the Norwegians receive trade union wages and work Englishmen's hours? He hoped that during the session this question would be thrashed out in order that they might ascertain exactly under what conditions Norwegian granite was cut, what wages were paid, and whether the work was done under conditions which gave Englishmen a fair chance of competing. He hoped the Government would be able to assure them that the work at Rosyth in regard to the formation of the dockyard was going on actively, and that they would see that English material and English labour were employed as much as possible.
§ MR. MACLEAN (Bath)
said the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield had referred to the removal of the tax upon coal. He would like to remind him that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and his predecessor were agreed as to the advisability of the removal of the coal tax. In regard to the coal trade generally, it was admitted that by far the greater proportion of the coal shipped was carried by our own traders. How immensely important was the export of coal to the question with regard to our own tonnage! Of course we were enabled to bring back raw materials to this country at low freights solely owing to the fact that we were sending out tonnage in vessels carrying coal. For instance, the Black Sea freights were at their present moderate figure owing entirely to the fact that we exported coal to that part of the world. These practical considerations were entirely overlooked by hon. Members on the other side of the House. Reference had been made to the question of horse shoes purchased abroad. It was true we had spent money in buying horse shoes in America or elsewhere, but they also knew that the action of the Government in that respect had had a beneficial effect, because the Secretary for War was now able to force contracts for horse shoes in this country at a reasonable price. The makers here had evidently learned a lesson which obviously they needed. He was glad the Government proposed to amend the licensing law, and would only express the hope that the Bill would contain some method to prohibit women from taking children into public houses. He was glad to know also that they proposed to amend the law for the protection of children. It was to be hoped that that measure would prevent the enormous number of deaths which occurred yearly from overlaying. Another point which had a bearing on child life was that of housing. He quoted a paragraph from a report presented to the House last session on the physical condition of children attending the Board Schools in Glasgow. The information placed before that Committee showed that the physical condition of children from 182 one-roomed houses was inferior to that of children from two roomed houses, and so on. The Bill for the housing of the working classes he hoped would lead to some amelioration of the condition of children. The people of the country at last appreciated the fact that the protection of the State was due to the child from the day of its birth as well as to adult citizens.
§ MR. SUMMERBELL (Sunderland)
expressed the hope that in dealing with the question of old ago pensions the Government would pay no heed to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Sheffield, namely, that coal or something else should be taxed in order to get the necessary money for old-age pensions. He thought the only legitimate way to get money for old-age pensions was to say that those who had incomes of £2,000 and over should provide the necessary money. It was an admitted fact that people were poor because the economic conditions under which they lived did not enable them to provide for their support in old age. The hon. Member for Sheffield had advised the Government, if they could not find a remedy for unemployment, to clear out and allow others to take their place. He was a poor man who could not sympathise with unemployed workers who had wives and families dependent upon them; but to suggest that the remedy for the evil was to be found in the introduction of protection was an insult to the workers of this country. There were at present in Berlin 53,000 unemployed, and yet Germany was a protectionist country. Men were clamouring for the opportunity to work, and they were appealing to the Government to take taxes off the food of the people. In America the same thing would be found; shiploads of people were leaving that country on account of unemployment. Did the hon. Member for Sheffield think that by taxing billiard balls and horse shoes they could find a remedy for unemployment? To say that protection would solve the question of the unemployed was to talk pure nonsense. The only hope of a part solution, he 183 contended, lay in a bold dealing by the Government with the land question, by which the people might be brought back to the land, and millions of acres might once more be tilled. He warned the Government that the manhood of the country would very soon assert itself unless they were prepared to tackle the problem. In his opinion the cause of much unemployment was that land had been allowed to go out of cultivation. They were importing food from abroad which could be produced in this country if the land were properly utilised. Go where they would in England they would find barren wastes which ought to be converted into smiling fields. What did the hon. Member for Sheffield and his friends do when a measure was brought forward with the object of enabling people to go on to land which had gone out of cultivation? They made every effort to resist it, and so to prevent the solution of the problem. No tariffs would settle the problem, and he appealed to the Government to make a bold stand on the land question and try and get the unemployed workers back on to the land. During the past sixty years about 1,000,000 people had been driven off the land, with the result that the towns were crowded with citizens on the verge of starvation. He was glad that the Government were going to deal with certain phases of the land question. He would give them his hearty support, believing it was in that direction that a remedy would be found in some measure at least for the evil of unemployment.
§ MR. R. DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan)
said that it must have struck any one looking at the Royal declaration that a great responsibility lay on the Government, not merely for the affairs of the United Kingdom, but for those of the most extended dominion that the world had ever seen. He was glad to find in the Speech from the Throne a statement of the conditions and relations which now existed between this country and foreign nations, especially with Russia, with 184 whom, not so far back in our history, we were on the verge of a great conflict. He was glad that the spirit of peace and conciliation prevailed in the minds of all the Governments of Europe. Questions of humanity were involved in the good government of Macedonia and the Congo State; and he wished to express approval of the wisdom of the Government in recognising their duty in dealing with other Powers to secure reforms in these countries. He complained that only two small allusions were made in the King's Speech to Greater Britain; and he could have wished that more of the spirit of responsibility had been shown, not merely for the United Kingdom but also for the United Empire. They on that side of the House were of one mind on that subject, and did not consider questions from the little-England, little-Scotland or little-Ireland point of view. The question of the migration of Japanese to Canada was a type of the subjects which were coming more and more to the front. Race questions were very difficult indeed. Were they to treat all races alike, or was there to be some real distinction to be made between people of different races and colour? He was glad that there was a paragraph in the King's Speech dealing with the famine in India. He regretted along with some former speakers that there was no recognition in the Speech of the state of unemployment in this country, and it struck him that that was rather strange when a gentleman occupied a seat on the Front Government Bench whose reputation depended on his sympathy with the unemployed and his struggles on their behalf. He knew from practical experience that unemployment in this country often depended upon tariffs in other countries, and he was sorry that tariff walls had been raised in other countries against our products. Industrial history showed us cases of established trades which were cut off as by the blow of an axe by a hostile tariff. Women's trades had suffered severely in this way. He hoped that the House would do something to 185 protect women's work in the United Kingdom. He could not help thinking that that was a question which was worthy of the consideration of the Government, which ought to look into the causes of unemployment and get at the real facts of the case, and not be content with quack remedies. So far as his voice had any weight, he wished to express the opinion that in every King's Speech, year after year, the question of employment or unemployment should find a place.
§ MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
said that so far from agreeing with the last speaker he thought they greatly erred in taking upon themselves a particular part in interfering with the conduct of affairs in other sovereign nations. It seemed to him that while they were right to sympathise in company with other countries with the people of Macedonia, they ought not to go one inch beyond that. This country never meant to go to war for Macedonia, and the excessive expression of empty sympathy on our part merely brought down upon the people the natural resentment of their masters, who would continue to be their masters so far as we were concerned. The first two measures mentioned in the Speech from the Throne would, he was sure, be received with great satisfaction in Wales. From his own constituency he had received a numerously signed petition to Parliament stating that the electors of Newtown, Montgomeryshire, greatly desired that there should be included in the forthcoming Licensing Bill a clause to safe-guard children under the age of fourteen by precluding them from entering bars and drinking premises, and prohibiting the sale of intoxicants to anyone under eighteen years of age. The seconder of the Address had referred to the famine in India, and tad spoken of our responsibility where so many people were perishing from starvation. It was by no means the case that the people of India perished for want of assistance from the Government. The whole of the resources of 186 the Government were at the disposal of the Indian people for the saving of human life. During the period of the greatest famine in India in modern times, 6,000,000 of people were in receipt of out-door relief. That meant that 2 percent. of the Indian population were in receipt of out-door relief, while in this country 2.2 per cent. had been in receipt of out-door relief during the same period. There was no longer famine in India in the old acceptation of the word. The moment prices of food rose beyond a certain point, the Government provisions for meeting famine came automatically into operation, and relief works were established on which the people were employed at slighty lower rates than their ordinary pay. Nothing was more painful than to see the manner in which, when there was any failure of crops in India, the problem of the government of that country was subjected to a torrent of misrepresentation, sometimes, he feared, malevolent, and the true facts entirely obscured. He hoped that when this question came under consideration again, it would be remembered that in the gravest famine, or so-called famine, in India in modern times, there were fewer people unrelieved in India, than there were in this country in any year. He was quite sure, however, that the hon. Gentleman who had brought this subject forward was not actuated by any malevolent ideas in regard to the government of India; of that, he freely absolved him. He had it in his mind to say this and nothing else, but since he was speaking, he would refer to what the Leader of the Opposition had said as to the Anglo-Russian Convention. Had that dealt with Persian affairs alone, he should have agreed with him that it was eminently desirable that the Persian Gulf should be brought in, and that the line should have run across the centre of the Gulf. He agreed in that event, the line should run in the direction which the speech of the right hon. Gentleman indicated, and which was also indicated in 187 a speech by Lord Curzon. But what they had to remember in regard to the Anglo-Russian Convention was that the Persian question was part of a whole, and the agreement arrived at in regard to Afghanistan was so satisfactory that, to his mind, it covered the Persian sub-issue. He did not for a moment forget that the Agreement confirmed to Russia all that she had and did not confirm to us all that we had; but he thought that, when they saw how satisfactory the Convention had been with respect to the frontiers of India—and it was with that view that it was made, and it was for that reason that the points raised about the Gulf were excluded—it must be allowed that the arrangement was on the whole a good one, and it was perhaps unwise to cavil about points that affected any particular country. With regard to Tibet for instance; he regretted very much that the expedition which was sent there proved so fruitless, and that all we gained was given up, but it must be pointed out that it was the late Government who gave up the results of that expedition, and it certainly would be most unjust to visit on the head of a Liberal Government the mere continuance of arrangements which were really those of their predecessors in office. He believed, as he had said, that the present arrangement was a good one in the interests of the Indian frontiers and of this country, and so long as we had a sufficient backing of battleships to make us feared, he believed it would be a valuable instrument which would eventually make for peace and prosperity. The hon. Member for Waterford had said that crime in Ireland was less than in England and Wales. He was not concerned with England, but if the hon. Member was going to make a comparison between the crime in Ireland and in Wales, he must point out that it was always well to remember in connection with this subject, that the statistics of Welsh crime were chiefly made up by the figures of Glamorganshire and of the great seaports in Glamorganshire, the 188 population of which was made up of other people than Welshmen. He thought it behoved him as a Welshman to make that explanation. Glamorganshire was, he believed, the most criminal county in the United Kingdom, but that was chiefly because of the foreigners who came to its seaports. He heartily agreed with the remark made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he begged hon. Members who felt strongly, as they all did, as to the case of the Indians in the Transvaal to let that matter alone to be settled by those concerned and those who had the settlement of it. He sincerely hoped the right hon. Gentleman's advice would be taken to heart, and he should take it to heart by saying no more on the subject, though he felt very strongly about it, knowing as he did, the feeling in England, and what was not of less importance the feelings of India, which had been needlessly hurt by the discussions which had taken place. He had hoped to have been able to speak to the Under-Secretary for the Colonies in respect of certain communications in Nyassaland, in which he happened to be closely interested and also in regard to the appointment of the members of the newly created Legislative Council, but as the Under-Secretary was not present he would defer his remarks. He would only take the opportunity of congratulating him on his safe return from Central Africa, which he attributed under Providence—and he was sure the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire would agree with what he said—to the fact that lions did not prey on their own species.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Ramsey Macdonald,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ Adjournment.—Motion made, and Question, "That this House do now adjourn,—(Mr. Whiteley,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Adjourned at twenty - three minutes after Nine o'clock.