§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
It is in accordance with the practice of the House on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill that we should take occasion to survey the work of the session and to deal with any of those questions for which opportunity for discussion has not been granted in the ordinary course of our procedure. There are some criticisms on the Government methods which I should like to make as to their conduct of business and the principles on which they said they meant to deal with it before coming into office. I cannot have a better starting point than the speech made by the Prime Minister to his constituency a few weeks before he took office. The right hon. Gentleman made that speech with a full knowledge of the Parliamentary situation. He had nothing to learn about the methods of conducting the business of the House and of the difficulties which lie in the way of conducting it, of the limitations that are inevitable on the liberty and privileges of debate, and upon all the complex questions which are now puzzling and perplexing every section of the House. The right hon. Gentleman laid down 1782 certain principles which I think I shall adequately present to the House by reading two extracts. The first of these relates to the closure of Supply under the Standing Order passed by the late Government, and which the right hon. Gentleman in the last few months, I believe, has declared to be one of the greatest reforms ever introduced in the procedure of the House, of Commons. This was his opinion expressed earlier in the session, but it was not his opinion in October, 1905. The right hon. Gentleman said—The theory of the Constitution is that you, the electors, send us, your representatives, to the House of Commons in order that we may check and control the expenditure of public money. What is the practice? I will give you the figures of the last two years. In 1904, under the operation of the Supply closure, or guillotine, £31,000,000 was voted, and not one item had ever been discussed; and this year, 1905, that £31,000,000 had under the same conditions risen to no less than £50,000,000.I will interrupt my quotation here to give the House the items of the last two years as compared with the £31,000,000 and the £50,000,000 of the late Government. They are £45,000,000 and £53,000,000, and these sums have been passed undiscussed by the House. I will now resume the quotation from the right hon. Gentleman's speech—What is the use of pretending that we live under a constitutional system and that the House of Commons has a real control over the finances of the country?…I say this, and I want to impress this view on the public mind, that this is a most serious state of things, for it amounts to nothing more nor less than a progressive paralysis of the Parliamentary organism.Then a little later on he says—Another result, and an equally serious one, is that the Executive Government of the day by the joint operation of the guillotine and the block becomes every year, both as to legislation and as to policy, more and more emancipated from the control of Parliament. That may be convenient for the holders of office for the time being, but in the long run it is bad for the Executive, it is degrading to Parliament, and it is injurious and even perilous to the Empire. In my opinion, therefore—and this is the conclusion to which I wish this narrative to lead—one of the primary duties of a Liberal Government and of a Liberal Party will be to supply a remedy, and to restore efficiency and dignity to our Legislature at Westminster.How have a Liberal Administration and a Liberal Party supplied a remedy 1783 or restored efficiency and dignity to our Legislature at Westminster? As regards the voting of Supply under the closure Resolutions, more money has been voted without discussion than under the late Administration. As regards blocking notices, the right hon. Gentleman, I believe, has put down a Resolution which he thinks will do something to remedy that state of things. But he has not allowed us a night to discuss it; and I venture to say that if the primary duty of a Liberal Administration and a Liberal Parliament is to be discharged by putting down on the Paper Resolutions dealing with these important matters and not giving us time to discuss them, then the duty falls very lightly on the Gentlemen who have undertaken it. The right hon. Gentleman has done much worse. He complained three years ago that these blocking notices prevented the discussion on the adjournment of the House of important matters. But the right hon. Gentleman spends his life in bringing forward closure by compartment Motions under which nothing can be discussed except the particular Bill dealt with. Consider the situation of the House now in regard to these closure Resolutions. As the House is aware, while the late Government had closure by compartments three times in ten years the present Government have had closure by compartments ten times in three sessions. The figures are identical but they are differently placed; and I shall be very much gratified if under the right hon. Gentleman's leadership we get to the end of the autumn session without the ten being increased to eleven, twelve, or thirteen. The right hon. Gentleman, in addition to this absolute destruction of the legitimate discussion in Committee on the Bill, prevents by his procedure anything being done in the way of discussion upon Motions for adjournment. I believe that for the first time in our Parliamentary history we are going to meet on 12th October with our liberties already taken away from us, and without the smallest power of raising any question on the adjournment of the House, however important the topic, however great the interest, however urgent the necessity. What are blocking notices compared 1784 with disabilities of that kind? They sink into absolute insignificance; and the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, if he surveys what has been done under his administration, must be aware that one of the primary duties of the Liberal Government and the Liberal House of Commons has been more grossly neglected, and the principles which they have laid down have been abandoned with less scruple and more violence than I think has ever happened in the history of this House. I confess I am amazed at the course the Government have pursued. In order to obtain some temporary cheers at meetings they laid down principles, with full knowledge of the facts, which they not only abandoned but reversed, the very moment power was put into their hands. There is one branch of this subject on which I desire to speak at length, and that is the way in which such discussions as could be allowed under the Supply rule have been curtailed by the present Administration. I have never myself attached much value to the figures which so pleased the right hon. Gentleman in 1905, of the money which is voted without being discussed. I have never believed that discussion in this House on questions in Supply really gives us control over the details of expenditure. In prehistoric times there might have been some control over the expenditure, but there certainly has not been in my Parliamentary experience. What it does do is to give an opportunity for criticising the Executive, and that power is not to be measured by the amount of money which goes undiscussed. It is to be measured, first, by the number of days which are devoted to criticism and discussion, and, in the second place, by the Votes put down by the Government of the day so as to give occasion for that discussion. Here I am bound to say the Opposition have great cause of complaint of the course which the right hon. Gentleman has pursued. He had it in his power to give twenty-three days to Supply; he had it in his power to curtail that period to twenty days. Sometimes the time has been curtailed with advantage. Can any human being say that that power of curtailment has been exercised with advantage this year, or that there is the least justification for 1785 the Government's having given us the smaller number of days? What was the justification given by the right hon. Gentleman when he gave us a sketch of business up to the beginning of August? His justification was that unless the House consented to give up these additional three days we should not be able to rise by 1st August, and that if we did not rise then general inconvenience would follow. I will accept the right hon. Gentleman's promise and will assume with him that the convenience of the House, which after all must be consulted, was such that it would have been an outrage to have asked us, seeing when we have to meet again, to sit into August. But why did the right hon. Gentleman give two days to the Licensing Bill which might have been given to Supply? He had got his closure Resolution on the Licensing Bill; it was absolutely certain it could not take more than twenty-five days. It now is only going to take twenty three days in the autumn session. It would have been no greater strain upon the House to have had the whole twenty-five days in the autumn session, and given us at least two days more for the discussion of Supply. Why the right hon. Gentleman did not take that course he has never explained to the House, and I have been unable to conjecture. The most plausible hypothesis was that it was absolutely necessary to convince a certain section of his supporters that the Government were really in earnest over the Licensing Bill, and that unless they got through the first clause before they separated for the holidays, nobody would put the smallest faith in the promises they had made. I do not know whether that is the reason, but what other reason can there be? The right hon. Gentleman may perhaps urge that we had such a full opportunity of discussion in Supply that more days were not required. If that was his view, he cannot have listened to the lamentation of the Home Secretary last night as to the exiguous portion of time which had been granted to him. I do not know whether the President of the Board of Trade laments that his Vote was not discussed. I rather conjecture that he does not. But there are two Estimates on which really it is little less than a scandal that we have not 1786 had some opportunity of criticising the administration. One of these is the Education Vote. I am not going to deal with that. The whole House will agree that at this time of all others it would have been desirable, and indeed necessary, to allow the House some liberty of debate upon the various methods by which the Government are attempting to solve by executive action problems which the House ought to deal with by legislation, and by legislation alone. There is an even graver question than education, and that is Ireland. Now what have the Government done about Ireland? In the first place, they have cut the customary three days down to two. In the second place, they have refused absolutely on either of these two days to allow the Chief Secretary's salary to be put down, so that the administration of Ireland could be properly discussed in this House. As I understand their excuse is this. They say that the business of the Government is to arrange Supply so as to meet the convenience of Members of the House, and the Members whose convenience is most to be consulted in the matter of Irish Supply are the party which contains a majority of the Irish Members—namely, the Nationalist Party; therefore they mean to arrange Supply so that the Nationalist Party shall discuss exactly what they like, and representatives of Ireland who differ profoundly from the Irish Party shall have no opportunity whatever of discussing Irish administration. I admit, of course, that Irish Members below the gangway take great interest in certain questions which they have a perfect right to discuss, such as Irish education and Irish local government, and the Government are bound to give such opportunities as they have given for the discussion of these matters. But when you come to the administration of the law in Ireland, hon. Gentlemen below the gangway will not accuse me of saying anything offensive when I say they are not the people to decide whether or not an opportunity should be given or discussion. They are not ardent upholders of law and order. They have never shown themselves anxiously critical of the Executive in the direction of seeing hat the law was maintained from one end of the country to the other; and they will not pretend that that has ever been 1787 their principal role in this House. In truth, it is absurd for the Government to treat hon. Gentlemen below the gangway as if they belonged to a separate party and were in the nature of official critics of the Government. Hon. Gentlemen below the gangway are more and more, so far as I can see, coming into a kind of subordinate alliance with the Radical Party at large. [Cries of "No," and an HON. MEMBER: Who told you that?] The observation is my own; it may not be correct; I offer it for what it is worth. What I have observed is this. The Gentlemen who represent the Home Rule constituencies in Ireland are anxious to say no more than they can help about Home Rule in order to keep their friends quiet on the other side of the Channel, while the Radical Party here and there, sometimes using a Cabinet Minister and sometimes not, is talking just as much about Home Rule in the constituencies as will quiet the Irish vote in those constituencies without frightening the English vote. That is a delicate and difficult position; but if I have rightly described it, and I think I have, it evidently prevents hon. Gentlemen below the gangway from taking up the position of independent criticism, such as that which Gentlemen sitting above the gangway naturally and properly occupy. We have had no opportunity of dealing with the administration of Ireland at all in Committee of Supply. Is that because there is nothing to criticise in the Irish administration? Is that because there is no cause of disquiet at the present time with regard to the maintenance of law and order and of personal freedom in that country? The facts which have been put into my hands, and which have been obtained by Question and Answer from the Chief Secretary in the course of the present session, are, in my opinion, of a most alarming character. May I just remind the House and the Chief Secretary of some of the leading features of the existing situation? I notice, for example, that serious outrages in which firearms were used amounted in the first six months of 1906 to 12 cases; in the same period in 1907 to 34 cases; and in 1908 to 76 cases. I am bound to say that the growth from 12 to 76 cases of serious outrages in which firearms were used is a symptom the 1788 gravity of which nobody could afford to ignore; and I think it is made worse, not better, by the fact that, as I take it, the disturbed state of Ireland is not universal—that is, the worst features are not universal but are more or less concentrated in nine or ten counties. I go on to cattle-driving. I observe that the figures of cattle-driving in the first six months of this year exceed the number of cases of cattle-driving for the whole twelve months of last year. There were 381 in 1907. From January to June in 1908 there were 413 cases.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Then I come to boycotting, which is one of the most painful social symptoms in that disordered state of the community, and one of the most difficult to deal with, and I notice that according to the figures there were in February, 1907, 20 cases; in February, 1908, 98 cases; in March, 1907, 19 cases; in March, 1908, 90 cases; in April, 1907, 25 cases; and in April, 1908, 104 cases. Not only is the actual growth enormous, but if you compare the figures of 1908 with the previous figures, it is continuous, it goes on from month to month. March is worse than February; April is worse than March. I do not know whether the later figures are more satisfactory, but if they are I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give them to the House. As to intimidation, I observe that 47 persons were under continual police protection in May, 1907, and in May, 1908, that number had risen to 70. If this be the state of crime, what is the state of the machinery by which crime is to be dealt with? How is the law working under the control of the right hon. Gentleman and the law officers of the Crown? At the end of 1907—at the last 1789 winter assizes—85 persons were put on their trial for agrarian offences, and not one single conviction of any sort or kind was obtained. In 1907 prosecutions before juries took place in respect of 381 persons charged with cattle-driving, and there was only one conviction. The Government, not unnaturally, finding that prosecutions for cattle-driving had utterly broken down in 380 cases out of 381, have abandoned even that ineffectual method of trying to deal with disorder or to protect property, and I understand—I hope I am not misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman—that they have absolutely abandoned any attempt to deal with these malefactors by the ordinary course of law. What they do now is to bind them over to give sureties for good behaviour. That, as anybody could foresee, is a most futile way of dealing with the situation. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman himself will tell us it is an effective way. I am told that recognisances have been required in case after case; they have only been estreated in one case, although the person bound over has absolutely refused to carry out the undertaking. Cattle-driving, naturally and inevitably under this process of ineffectual law—threatening but never acting—is increasing steadily, with all the evils to industry, to society, and to law which are inevitable in such circumstances. If I have sketched this very dark picture as it seems to me—there may be higher lights on it somewhere; I have not come across them—if to this very dark picture we add the final touch that the right hon. Gentleman has been obliged to increase the number of police and that the cost to the counties for extra police has been growing by leaps and bounds, I think it will become apparent that the right hon. Gentleman is fully conscious of the gravity of the position with which he has got to deal, although he absolutely refuses to make use of the plainly indicated method by which that disorder may best be met. In 1907 the amount charged to local rates in respect of extra police amounted roughly to a little over £1,000. In 1908 it amounted to over £12,000. These additional charges upon the local authorities for extra police are growing before our eyes. The number of police that the right hon. Gentleman is obliged 1790 to use in order to maintain law is also growing, simply because he refuses to use the powers of the law which the Legislature of this country has put in his hand. While the cost of police and the number of police are both rising, crime is simultaneously increasing and the impunity of the offender is becoming more and more a notorious fact in every disturbed county in Ireland. May I ask what possible justification the Government can have for refusing us that additional day to discuss the Chief Secretary's Vote on which a topic so grave as this might have been dealt with, without the interruptions which cannot be avoided, of course, when the whole field of discussion is open to the House on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill? The House is thinning in numbers, losing its interest in public affairs, thinking much more of the seaside than of the state of Ireland.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I heartily condole with the hon. Gentleman if he is going to occupy August and September with thinking over tariff reform. Let him retire happily to the seaside, play golf, and clear his brain. I am quite certain the Chief Secretary is the last man to desire to evade debate. He is not only speaker of boundless resource, but a man of unlimited courage. I think he would have rejoiced to have an opportunity of explaining, and it may be of defending, the policy or impolicy which he is pursuing now. But he has not been given that opportunity by the Government. His colleagues have refused it to him and they have refused it, as I venture to point out to the House, for no assignable reason except the desire to have only twenty-three days in October and November devoted to the Licensing Bill, instead of the twenty-five which they would have had had we been properly treated in this matter of Supply. Everybody will feel that the House never separated with a greater feeling if general disquiet in the public mind than at the present time, considering that, so far as we know, the horizon is quite clear of clouds connected with foreign policy or international compli- 1791 cation. I share this disquietude. We were told by the Prime Minister, I think it was a year ago, that the low price of Consols was to be expected when money was very dear and when trade was very good. Money is very cheap and trade is not very good, but Consols remain low. I know how easy it is to use perversely for some immediate controversy such considerations, and I am not going to assert that all this is due to the Government. Are we sure that it is not partly due to the anxiety and disquiet about our financial position, which is the inevitable result of the policy the Government have chosen to pursue during the present session? With or without reason, they have continued to alarm vast sections of the community—they may or may not have been justified, this is not the time now to discuss that, and my opinion is well known—but the fact remains. Do not let us delude ourselves into the belief that it matters very little whether the public mind is disquieted or not—it matters a great deal, even if we cannot estimate the loss in pounds, shillings, and pence—through the difficulties the Government must have met with in their finance. So far as they are responsible they have brought upon themselves and upon us the misfortunes inevitably incident to our financial position. I do not know whether the Government are happy about the state of efficiency of our national defences, our Army, and our Fleet. I do not know whether they think with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who apparently cannot make a speech upon peace without suggesting that the best way to attain peace is by lowering the scale of our defensive armaments. I do not know whether that is likely to reassure the public mind. For my own part, seeing what the financial position is to which the Bill now to be read a second time has brought us; seeing the impression our debates on the various financial measures of the Government have made on the public mind; seeing the commitments they have made; seeing how contradictory have been statements made by members of the Government on the fundamental question of national armaments, I do not think that the public uneasiness is without justification. I earnestly hope—if not during the remainder of the session, that is too much 1792 to hope—that, at all events, next session the Government will do two things. First, that they will carry out what the right hon. Gentleman declared in a speech before he entered office to be the primary duty of a Liberal Government—to restore to the House some of its ancient privileges and traditions; and in the second place, that they will redeem, fully redeem, all the pledges they have made through the mouth of the Prime Minister in regard to the maintenance, in all circumstances, at whatever sacrifice, of the national armaments with which our security is intimately bound up.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
The right hon. Gentleman in the gloomy exordium and pessimistic peroration to which we have just listened has told us that never had he known the House to separate with greater feeling of disquiet.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
Looking round these benches, looking at the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman, my eyes fail to discern any signs of sympathy with these gloomy forebodings. If the apprehensions the right hon. Gentleman expresses, and I have no doubt sincerely entertains, were shared—I will not say by the general public—I will say by his own party, should we not have something more than this listless, apathetic audience to listen to the right hon. Gentleman's sombre vaticinations? What is it that alarms the right hon. Gentleman? He mentioned the price of Consols, but they have been higher in price this year than last. For my part, I have always declined to take the price of Consols as a measure of national credit—many factors combine to affect that result; but if the right hon. Gentleman chooses to make this suggestion, may I remind him that the German Government recently proposed to float a 4 per cent. loan at 98½ and have not got it?
§ *MR. ASQUITH
A 4 per cent. interest, I understand, is a 4 per cent. loan. Now 1793 the question I would like to put to the right hon. Gentleman or the hon. Baronet is, would lie change places in regard to national credit with any other Government in the world; would he, after three years of Liberal administration, change with any Government you like to mention, with France, Germany, the United States, or any other country? The people of this country are not in that state of anxiety and disquietude which the imagination of the right hon. Gentleman attributes to them, for the reason that they live under a system of free trade and sound finance and the position of the country is solid and substantial.
§ *MR. ASQUITH
Measure it by any test you like, my proposition will command general assent. The right hon. Gentleman said something about our national defence. There has been much criticism, and there has been ample opportunity afforded for it, upon the scheme for the reorganisation of our military forces by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, and both inside and outside the House those criticisms have been met. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to suggest, speaking with the authority that attaches to the position of Leader of the Opposition, that our Navy is not in a position of unquestioned supremacy when compared with all the Navies in the world? Does he mean to suggest that we have allowed it to fall below that standard of efficiency which, by the consent of all parties, we ought to maintain, and the necessity for which no one has asserted on behalf of the Government more strongly than myself during the session? General vague insinuations are calculated to spread disquietude which cannot but produce evil impressions, false impressions, in foreign countries, and there is absolutely no foundation for saying that our Navy is not in a condition of first-rate efficiency, thoroughly adequate for the duties the interest of the Empire may require. Now I go back to the earlier part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He has quoted some language I used in addressing my constituents, and I do not in the 1794 least repent of what I then said—that one of the duties of the Liberal Party would be to restore the dignity and efficiency of the House of Commons. I think we have performed that duty. ["Hear, hear," and ''Oh, oh."] I do not say this in any spirit of vaingloriousness or self-complacency, and I ask any fair-minded man to look at what we have done and what we have left undone during the three sessions the Government have been in existence, and to compare these with any other three preceding years, and then judge by the comparison. The specific points raised by the right hon. Gentleman resolve themselves really into two. The first is, as he says, that we have not remedied the abuse to which I called attention in the speech from which he has quoted, the abuse of blocking motions which may prevent the discussion of matters of importance. Well, we have done much more than the right hon. Gentleman did; we appointed a Committee for the purpose of inquiring into the practice, and I had the honour to preside over it. We discussed the subject exhaustively, and dealt with it in a unanimous Report which, subsequently, I embodied in a notice of Motion which has been before the House during the whole of the session. I never had any kind of assurance from the right hon. Gentleman opposite that this Motion would meet with general acquiescence or certainly by this time it would have been a Standing Order of the House. I cannot, therefore, charge myself or the Government with any laxity in this matter; I am most anxious to see that reform speedily and with general consent introduced into our proceedings. And now I come to what, after all, is the gravamen of the charge against the Government as a whole, as distinguished from the administration of Ireland in particular—the manner in which we have dealt with Supply. I confess I listened with some astonishment to the right hon. Gentleman's figures by which he sought to draw a comparison between the amount of Supply undiscussed during his term of office and during our term. The figures do not in the least accord with those I have here recorded, I think, in authentic form from the journals of the House. I take the four years from 1795 1904. In 1904 the total amount of the Votes discussed was £68,000,000; in 1905, the last year of office of the late Government, £60,000,000; in 1906 it was £111,000,000, and in 1907 the amount was £77,000,000. That there were very considerable items of Supply undiscussed I agree, but on the comparison the record is most favourable to us in the last years as compared with the preceding years. I do not suppose anyone—I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman himself—will say that we can possibly under modern conditions have the old condition of things under which every item could be discussed without regard to relative importance. We never can return to that system, and the real test to apply to the conduct of the business of Supply by any particular Government is to ask whether they have within the number of days allotted by the rule as far as possible, submitted to the House, with the opportunity for discussion, items of the largest general interest, and subject to the most adverse criticism. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Education Vote. We should have been perfectly prepared to submit that Vote for discussion if from the Opposition, from the Irish Party, or from any considerable section of the House there had come a desire for discussion. That the desire was not expressed was the sole reason why the Vote passed undiscussed. The main charge of the right hon. Gentleman was in regard to Ireland. As I pointed out the other day, although two days were allotted, yet in one way and another Irish administration has been discussed in Committee of Supply for four and a half nights during the session. The speech of the right hon Gentleman has shown that it is competent for hon. Gentlemen to discuss it again to-day. I am not going to enter into the specific points which the right hon. Gentleman has raised, though they are serious points, and very worthy of consideration, but I cannot allow to pass the suggestion that hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway on the other side come to the House as subordinate members of the Liberal Party. They have a very odd way of showing their subordination, and I think that the halcyon time in which, I shall not say, co-operation, but co-ordination, in political efforts and aims, 1796 shall be established between them and us, is still rather a dream of the future than a realisation of the present. As a matter of fact, no one knows better than the Chief Secretary that every administrative act in Ireland is the subject of scrutiny from two precisely opposite points of view, and it is only when it is possible with the aid of the Treasury to provide a measure which satisfies with a pecuniary solatium some Irish need, that there are smiles of approval both below and above the gangway. I have said that I believe that we have done everything in our power to restore dignity to the House of Commons. It, is not in order to discuss legislation to-day, but it must be remembered when reviewing these matters that this House is not only the critic of administration, but also an organ of legislation. I do not think it is irrelevant even to-day when you are considering whether the time of the House has been usefully and fruitfully spent, to say that by the time the House adjourns, we shall have passed through the House in all their stages, no less than thirty-three Government Bills, as well as fifteen Bills introduced by private Members. Let me say at once that I acknowledge to the full in regard to a considerable number of those Government Bills which were of a non-contentious character, the thoroughly reasonable spirit in which we have been met, particularly at night under conditions which possibly are rather provoking, by many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It would not have been possible to have so large a legislative harvest unless there had been loyal co-operation on both sides of the House in the attempt to carry through measures which tended to excite party passion. I acknowledge that in the fullest fashion, and I think that the House may look back on five months of as really fruitful and effective legislative work as any that has been carried in the annals of Parliament.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
called attention to the action of the Board of Education with regard to the administration of the building grant made last year under the Appropriation Act. He did not think anyone would contend that it was competent for the Board of Education to 1797 make regulations to override the provisions of an Act of Parliament previously passed by that House. He reminded the House of Mr. Justice Channell's judgment that the Board of Education decision could only be final as to conditions not directly imposed by Act of Parliament. That showed very plainly that the Board was not empowered to make regulations which were contrary to a clause in a previous Act of Parliament. But in order to make quite sure that that was not going to be done he asked the then Minister of Education, now the First Lord of the Admiralty, a question on the subject, and on 6th February this year he replied in the following terms—It is proposed to make grants for building schools, but the Board will take care that the section which the hon. Member quotes (18 (1) (c) of Act, 1902) is not contravened.Section 18 of the Act of 1902, he said, provided that a county council should charge such portion as they thought fit, not being less than half or more than three-fourths, of any expense incurred by them in respect of capital expenditure in the parish or parishes which in the opinion of the council were served by a new school. It was perfectly clear from that that there was no choice for a county council but to charge something between a half and three-quarters in the parish; but there were cases in which this had not been carried out. He could quote cases in which not only the Act, but the specific undertaking of the Minister of Education, had not been carried out. At Pontfadog in Denbighshire there was a school which had received a grant which covered the whole cost of the new building. There were other schools, too, in which the grant had been given in such a manner as to relieve the local ratepayers of any charge. In Glamorganshire the county council agreed to pay their share and that the whole of the parish share should be taken out of the grant given by the Treasury. He contended that that was absolutely illegal. The building grant was paid to the local authority and the local authority had no choice but to charge from one-half to three-fourths on the parish concerned. In this particular case it happened to be the parish in which the 1798 Welsh Secretary to the Board of Education himself resided, and, therefore, the circumstances must have come to his notice, both officially and privately. Another point of which he complained was that the inquiries made when objections had been lodged had been one-sided and perfunctory. He could quote many cases, but he would only mention that of the school at Llandaff. About two and a half years before this grant was made there had been a proposal there to build two new schools, but suddenly without giving any fresh notice, although previous notice had been given of these schools, the Board, of Education decided to build another school in a different place for a different class of people, but they gave no notice under the section of the Act of 1902, which required that they should do so in order that ratepayers opposed to the proposal should have an opportunity of objecting. Now a grant had been made of £1,000 to that school, although none of the formalities under the Act had been followed out. There were other cases in which the Board of Education had not held inquiries and heard, or attempted to hear, what was to be said on the other side. He hoped that in the distribution of the £40,000 building grant for this year the Education Acts would not be over-ridden by the Board of Education, and that both sides would be fairly heard.
Another complaint he had to make was against the composition of the Departmental Committee on half timers at school. This was a question which intimately concerned the agricultural interest—and affected that interest perhaps more than any other. But there was no adequate representation of agriculture on the Committee. He had been told in answer to a question that Lord Clifford of Chudleigh was put on to represent agriculture.
But that was not enough. He had no doubt that the noble Lord would be an admirable member of that Committee; but, however excellent he might be he was bound to say that his Lordship was a representative of the Roman Catholics rather than of agriculture. He observed that on reading is life that he was a Count of the Holy Roman Empire and, therefore, he was 1799 on the Committee as representative the Roman Catholic schools. What he wanted to impress on the right hon. Gentleman was that this was a question of the most vital importance to people interested in agriculture. An enormous number of schools were affected by this question of half-time and it was perfectly absurd to appoint a Committee on which one noble Lord could be said to be the only person to represent agriculture. He looked at the composition the Committee and found that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education was to be Chairman, but he represented London and Glasgow. Lord Stanley of Alderley represented the view of the old work done on the London School Board. Then came the hon. Member for Scarborough; Mr. Lindsell, the Secretary to the Board of Education, who was bound to be on it; Mr. Bell house, Factory Inspector; Mr. Cross, Secretary to the Weavers' Amalgamation in the Northern Counties; Mr. T. Garnett. of Manchester; Mr. Allen Gee, Huddersfield, Secretary of Union of Weavers; Mr. Oldroyd, of Dewsbury, who was, no doubt, very well known to the right hon. Gentleman, and Mr. Sykes of the Board of Education, Secretary. If this had been a Committee to inquire into the position of the children of operatives who were weavers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, or of the condition of children of people living in London it might have been a very fair Committee, but he contended that it was a most narrow, partial, and one-sided Committee to consider this great question. Three counties only were represented, and Lord Clifford of Chudleigh had to represent the rest of England. The hon. Member for West Cambridgeshire the other day also took the view that the Committee was thoroughly bad and partial; and he agreed that the reference to the Committee was most unsatisfactory. That hon. Member asked a question as to whether it was possible, owing to the terms of reference, to take evidence on the advisability of extending the exemption as well as curtailing it, but the right hon. Gentleman without much consideration said no. Now, it seemed to him that the terms of the reference were quite incompatible with the answer the right hon. Gentleman 1800 gave. Here was the second paragraph of the reference—To consider the practical effects of legislation providing for the abolition or restriction of half-time employment upon industries and wage-earning and upon educational organisation and expenditure.And the third paragraph said—To report whether, and to what extent, in view of these considerations, it is desirable to amend the law by raising the age at which partial exemption from attendance at public elementary schools is to be permitted, or by raising the minimum age for total exemption concurrently with affording facilities for partial exemption.The reference was purely one-sided. It allowed evidence to he taken as to the desirability of still further raising the age at which half-time or whole-time exemption was permissible, but it excluded evidence on the other side. Speaking for an agricultural constituency and resenting very much the way in which agriculture was treated in the matter of education and its special representation on the Committee, he maintained that it was most important to consider this whole question—not only from the point of view of raising the age limit, but also of lowering it. If it was desired to do something in the least satisfactory for education in the agricultural districts the proper course was to be more free with regard to exemption in day schools and put the age still lower, the continuation of study in evening schools being relied on to make good the deficiency at a later age. The boy would thus be able to keep n his head what he had learnt and would be induced to take an interest for himself in learning. He firmly believed that that was the proper way of solving the difficulty in the agricultural districts. But if this Committee was going to be guided in its decisions by hon. Gentlemen none of whom knew anything about the conditions of agriculture, he thought there was a danger of the interests of agriculture being neglected altogether. He hoped that it was not too late to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman that he should alter the composition of the Committee and also the terms of reference so as to give the highest interests of agriculture a chance of being considered.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. BIRRELL,) Bristol, N.
said he only desired to intervene for a moment 1801 between his right hon. friend the Minister for Education and the hon. Member for Oswestry in order to offer a few observations on one of the subjects referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. No one would be surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had availed himself of the opportunity which the Second Reading of this Bill gave him if he had anything to say about Ireland and the Government of Ireland. So far as he was personally concerned, he would have been very glad if a third day had been allotted to Irish Supply. The present occasion did not, he admitted, afford the opportunity of discussion which the gravity of the subject deserved. He was glad the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism that day had not referred to a matter which he or, at all events, the hon. Members behind him had referred to previously. He meant the suggestion that he regarded the present state of Ireland as other than very grave in many of its aspects. He had been accused of flippancy and levity and other qualities which, if he really showed them, he deeply regretted, for he could honestly say that the burden of his office pressed always very heavily upon him. Naturally he resented the language often employed giving the impression that the whole of Ireland was in a terrible state—language used by speakers, some of whom ought to know better, and some whose only excuse was their ignorance. It was his bounden duty to try to preserve the perspective in this case, and prevent anybody from being led to a wrong conclusion. Therefore he might have sometimes used language which, to people who had their attention concentrated on one part of the country, might have seemed a little strange. Moreover, he was not always correctly reported. He had been reported, for instance, as saying that Ireland was a cheerful land, when what he said was that Ireland was inhabited by a cheerful people. So far as he followed them the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman appeared to be perfectly accurate. He did not deny that during the last twelve months there had been a lamentable increase in certain kinds of crime and of offences in certain parts of Ireland. He did not endeavour to withhold 1802 information as to the real facts of the case. No doubt there had been a very reprehensible increase in a kind of crime in Ireland, but in some respects the crime and outrage were connected with circumstances which were not entirely agrarian in the ordinary sense of the word. They arose out of lamentable disputes between the occupants of land who were dissatisfied with the allotments made to them by the Estates Commissioners. That was a very terrible thing; there were sometimes incidents of great violence, and one case, he regretted to say, resulted in actual murder. These incidents could not be altogether avoided, and he was happy to say that the ordinary law was quite sufficient to deal with them. They arose from the passion for the land. They arose from the fact that these poor people had very little to think of except the land; they exaggerated its importance enormously; and if one person obtained a rather better piece than his neighbour it often led to lamentable disputes. The Government were able to say, almost for the first time in the history of the agrarian question in Ireland, that they were able to trace to its source this recrudescence of unlawful acts. Were it not for the passion of the people in Galway and Roscommon and other counties to get possession of the grasslands, Ireland would be extraordinarily free at the present time from anything that could be called agrarian, outrage. The intimidation which took place—the firing into houses, a most detestable and cowardly form of intimidation—was almost always traceable to the question of the grasslands. It was in order to exercise intimidation upon graziers and other persons in possession of these lands, or persons who worked for the graziers, that these lamentable and cowardly acts were resorted to. It was surely a circumstance worthy of the consideration of the House at any time that they had traced to its source the origin of the increased disturbances in Ireland. It was owing to this desire to get the grasslands. For some time the policy of including grasslands within the purview of any purchase Bill was much disputed. But he could not overlook the fact that the Royal Commission presided over by Lord Dudley, and having among its 1803 members Sir Antony MacDonnell, now Lord MacDonnell, Sir Francis Mowatt, Sir John Colomb, a relative of a predecessor of his, and two others, one of whom was a Member of Parliament, and all of whom were well acquainted with the question, had held inquiries all over Ireland, particularly in the West. They had put something like 60,000 questions to witnesses from all parts of the country, and a great part of their inquiry had been directed to the very question, aye or no, in the interests of these people in the West of Ireland, was it or was it not desirable that these lands should be immediately taken up and distributed for the relief of congestion amongst the people who so anxiously needed them. That was a question on which the attention of Ireland had been fixed for the last eighteen months or two years, and all this evidence had been reported verbatim in the Irish newspapers, and read with the utmost eagerness in every market in Ireland. He had been called upon to listen over and over again to the reading of the evidence of some of the witnesses. All of it had apparently been committed to heart, and it seemed almost the dearest possession of the people. The excitement and interest occasioned by that Commission all over Ireland could not be exaggerated. What had happened? The Commission had reported in favour of this very thing, namely, the handing over of the grasslands to the people. They would say to him: "Are you, as an honest man and a lawyer, attempting for a single moment to justify lawless and improper acts simply because the Commission, after giving all its attention to the subject, has come to the conclusion that these poor people were right, not in their method but in their desires? "Of course he answered, "Nothing of the kind." One regarded with horror every act of violence; but still let them be honest in the matter, and have regard to the whole past history of Irish land legislation. They had by their Irish land legislation inevitably done a great deal to demoralise these very people. They could not deny it. It was most painful to witness going on, month after month, and year after year, this undoubted demoralisation in the minds of the people, 1804 simply and solely because they had got the idea ingrained in their minds that this House and country stood behind them with the determination to divide the land of Ireland, agricultural and pastoral, in those parts where congestion existed, amongst the people who desired it, in order that they and their families might not have to drift away to America or elsewhere, but that they might live, thrive, and work in the country to which they were so deeply attached. That demoralisation showed itself very clearly in two ways which he deeply deplored. The people of every district disregarded now the desire to relieve their poorer brethren in the congested districts, and looked upon this grazing land, when it was divided, as peculiarly their own, as something which was to be theirs, and they showed no disposition whatever to allow poor people from a distance to have economic holdings cut out of the land. He deplored that demoralisation, and, though he did not know much about; the Irish people, he knew a little about the English and Scottish people, and all he could say was that in both England and Scotland, under the same conditions, in his opinion, the demoralisation would have been much greater than, it was in Ireland at the present moment. They said, and he might assume that it was true, "This increase of crime, of acts of violence, and acts of intimidation which you so eloquently deplore, assuming that it is true that in the main they are attributable to the desire of the people to get the grass lands, does that in any way acquit you from the obligation of seeing to it that by every means in your power you suppress and punish these acts of illegality?" He quite agreed that it was the duty of the Executive Government to do the best that it could to maintain the law, but he claimed the right to consider whether or not in the long run he was not best serving the interests of law and order by the exercise of the ordinary law to put down crime, and so enlisting on his side the forces and sympathies of public opinion, rather than by resorting to methods which would undoubtedly excite pain and indignation in Ireland and might very likely lead to far worse results. The whole argument of the Opposition was that they wished to pin him down to 1805 the Crimes Act, and they said: "Unless you put that Act into force you are guilty of cowardice"; but he did not agree with that, and he was not at all dissatisfied with the results of his administration so far as that went. Cattle-driving, as an indictable offence, in association with acts of violence and unlawful assemblies, had largely ceased to exist. Cattle-drives had been very frequent; they were diminishing in number now. Last week there were only seven, the week before, and the week before that, thirteen. Of course, it might be said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that this was what might be expected in these particular months, when they might look to see cattle-driving decreasing in numbers. There might be something in that, but he knew that the fact was that it was decreasing at the present moment. He had said that for some time cattle-driving had not been associated with acts of violence or unlawful assemblies, but it had become an offence extraordinarily difficult to deal with, because it was done at night, and no trace could be discovered by the police, with all their ingenuity, of the persons who committed these offences. Though cattle-driving had ceased to be anything so large as it was, it had become exceedingly difficult to trace. He was always being asked questions about cattle-drives and what arrests had been made. He had been compelled to answer that there had been cattle raids, and that no arrests had been made, and the reason was that they did not know whom to arrest, and neither the provisions of the Crimes Act nor any other method of legislation would enable them to bring people to justice unless they could catch them. For the most part the cattle-drives which were now being made were being conducted in conditions of secrecy at right, and were not easily discovered. Therefore, it was not altogether fair to say that if he were to avail himself of the benefits of the permanent legislation of the other side, and suspended trial by jury, and placed the administration of these things in the hands of two resident magistrates he would thereby secure a larger number of convictions. A good deal of ridicule had been poured on the system of arresting those persons who had been identified, bringing them up before the 1806 magistrates, and binding them over to keep the peace. He did not agree at all with the view that that was a useless proceeding; on the contrary, he had the authority of several inspectors of police that very good results had followed from it. He did not believe there were half-a-dozen instances of persons who had entered into these recognisances and taken part in subsequent cattle-drives. It was an entire mistake to suppose that these cattle-drivers were reprobate and idle persons; for the most part, he regretted to say, they were the sons of respectable farmers, stalwart, young men, only too well able to look after themselves.
§ MR LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
How is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the cattle-drivers are of the class he describes? A minute or two ago the right hon. Gentleman told us that they were not known.
§ MR. BIRRELL
said that hundreds of them were bound over to keep the peace, and with those he was acquainted. An enormous number of cattle-drives were reported, and entered in the annals and statistics of indictable offences, and a great many persons who had taken part in them were not known. Therefore he only based his argument on those he did know, and they were a class of persons who for the most part kept their word. Therefore he would continue the use of his present weapon which, though perhaps rusty, was possibly the most effective for putting down the offence without doing that which might lead to far more serious consequences if they resorted to legislation outside of the ordinary law. Although the weapon might not be considered the most effective, it was not by any means ineffectual, and it had done a great deal of good. He was glad to notice that cattle-driving had declined in the past few weeks, although he knew that this was not the time when it occurred most frequently. Still, he was not without hope that when the winter time came the method they had adopted—though he admitted it had tried their patience to the utmost—might prove to have more permanent results in securing the peace of the neighbourhood than if they had suspended the ordinary 1807 law and handed over the liberty of hundreds of people to two resident magistrates. At all events that was the view that he took of the case. He could not admit, even on the figures, that the increase of offences was of an alarming character, though he quite agreed that it was profoundly to be deplored. The figures were not of a kind to lead anyone to abandon hope as to the course they were endeavouring to pursue. Complaint was made of the increase of the police. That was, he confessed, the most melancholy feature of the case. He had been obliged to increase enormously the number of the police in consequence of the necessity of watching great areas of sparsely populated country. Half the loss fell on the Treasury, and the other half on the county, and certainly nothing had pained him more than the fact that, while he was struggling to get money for the higher education of Ireland, struggling for a few thousands of pounds for the annual endowment of a college, he should have been obliged, simply in consequence of this stupid, as well as wrong, policy, to cast on the taxpayers of this country, as well as of Irish counties, themselves already heavily overburdened, a further burden amounting to many thousands a year. It was a lamentable feature of the situation that he should have been compelled to impose this heavy burden on the English, Welsh, Scottish, and Irish taxpayers. He lamented it from the bottom of his heart, but he still said, in spite of the shortcomings of his policy, in spite of the figures which the right hon. Gentleman had quoted, he believed that at the present moment he stood in a better position for the future maintenance of law and order in Ireland than if, adopting the policy of the Party opposite, he had made war on the people of Ireland, in spite of the protestations of the Liberal Party that they would do all that they could for as long as they could to govern them according to the ordinary law. He believed that he had been right in the policy he had adopted. If he had followed any other policy he was convinced that instead of being better, the situation would have become worse. The temper and the disposition of the Irish people, even in those disturbed portions of the country, would have 1808 been worse to-day than he had reason to believe they now were. He was, at any rate, not going to abandon hope, and he certainly thought that he was entitled to make an appeal to the Irish people and to the Irish leaders to exercise such influence as they could on the population, for whom everyone must have profound sympathy, properly to guide and control their action. He hoped each would exercise such influence as he had, to whatever party in the State he might belong, to see to it that these people were told what their duties were both to God and to their neighbours, that they should not have to lament the excellent land legislation which he hoped to see carried through by others, if not by himself, and that there should be no cause to regret that they had introduced that policy because of the demoralisation in some few parts of the country.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
No one will accuse the right hon. Gentleman of trifling with the position of affairs in Ireland, but when he asks us to realise that he treats it gravely and seriously, and tells us that suggestions to the contrary vex him, he must, I think, remember that there has been no small provocation for the adoption of a view like that. He cannot forget that more than once he himself has poured ridicule and contempt upon Members on this side of the House for doing that which he had been obliged to refer to to-day, viz., bringing before Parliament facts and figures the accuracy of which he has never been able to dispute. I do not wonder that the right hon. Gentleman claims in the first place his right as Chief Secretary to decide for himself what is the Government policy. Nobody disputes his right, but he cannot dispute our right to judge of his policy, not by his own statements, not by his own expressions of hope, not by his own opinions, but by the actual results which have followed from that policy. The Chief Secretary told us in his closing and most eloquent sentences that he believed the condition of Ireland would be worse today than it is in these parts of Ireland to which I have referred, if he had adopted a different policy; but what justification has the Chief Secretary for that view? He will find no justification in the previous history of the country or 1809 in the previous administration of his predecessors He himself, and his immediate predecessor, when they came to Dublin Castle, said they found Ireland in a condition of peace which had not been equalled for many years. That state of affairs had been brought about by an administration of the law which was absolutely equal as between man and man. The Chief Secretary says he is not altogether dissatisfied with the results of his policy, but, if that be so, he must be satisfied with very small results indeed. My right hon. friend called attention to the increase in the number of offences, especially the use of firearms, the gravest and surest indication of serious unrest in those parts of the country where the particular crime is committed. My right hon. friend also called attention to the increase of police, and although the Chief Secretary started with a condition of things so satisfactory that he and his predecessor constantly alluded to it in their speeches, he is bound to admit here to-day that he has had to increase the number of police in the counties because of the condition of unrest in which he finds them. Can it be urged that it is unjust or unfair of us to arraign him and his administration when facts of that kind are put before Parliament and the country? The Chief Secretary went on to trace this condition of things to the passion for land in Ireland. But that has been the fact in Ireland ever since the country existed. The passion for the land is the oldest, and in some respects perhaps the saddest, story in Ireland, and does the Chief Secretary or anybody believe that, if the people in Ireland believe, as they will believe, if his policy continues, that all they have got to do is to support their desire for land by crime and misconduct and that their desires will be met by Parliament—does he believe that the consequences to Ireland will not be of the gravest possible description? Is anybody so foolish as to I believe that they can curb the desires of the various classes in Ireland? Hon. Gentlemen opposite surely know that even now there are signs in Ireland of a desire to share in the benefits hitherto conferred solely upon the farmers. Are you going to teach them, because they have a hunger for something, that if they want to get it they are to follow the example of those who are breaking the 1810 law now because, as the Chief Secretary says, they not altogether unnaturally desire to get the land for themselves? The Chief Secretary told us that he was urged by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House and by the Unionist Party in Ireland to suspend the ordinary law and to put the extraordinary law into force. The remarkable part of that extraordinary law is that when it was passed by my right hon friend, some parts of it were made to depend upon proclamations by the Government, but some parts were made a part of the ordinary statute law requiring no proclamation of any kind whatever; and what we have urged on the Chief Secretary is not that he should proclaim districts, or use those parts of the Act which must be preceded by proclamation, but that he should make full use of the general law; until he has done that, he cannot claim that he has done everything in his power to put down lawlessness and disorder. He told us that cattle-driving was not so very grave an offence as some people believed it to be. He said it was abominable and objectionable, but he pointed out that cattle-driving is indulged in by men among whom were small farmers and people of some substance, that in many cases it was not accompanied by brutal treatment either of human beings or of the animals themselves, and that therefore in many cases it was not so brutal as it was represented to be on this side of the House. The question of the degree of brutality has nothing to do with the commission of this particular offence. At first we were told that this cattle-driving was directed against tenants who occupied grazing land only, and that, at the beginning of the outbreak of cattle-driving, it was only the graziers that were attacked; but it did not take long before the lesson taught in the beginning was learnt and applied in other cases, and it has long ceased to be the case that cattle-driving is applied only to graziers. Many "drives" now take place on the farms of tenant farmers, not men of wealth, and it is inevitable, if it is allowed in the one case, that it will follow in the other, and as it goes on, it will become more and more difficult to put down. The Chief Secretary told us it is dying down already, but it was only in the debates raised at the beginning of this session in February that we were told exactly the same story. Many of 1811 us who know something of the cattle trade in Ireland, believe that the reasons which led to the reduction in the number of cases then had nothing on earth to do with the application of the law, but had solely to do with the conditions of the trade itself. I believe that is the reason now, but at all events, we know that the same hopes were indulged in in February, and dashed to the ground in April and May, and the same hopes being indulged in in July will, unless the law be enforced, be dashed to the ground in November and December. We must, said the Chief Secretary, legislate in order to remove this congestion. By all means. I have never concealed my view that if there be a grievance which legislation will remove, by all means take every chance to pass your legislation, and do justice to the country; but at the same time that you are carrying remedial legislation, you; must first of all enforce the law without any fear or favour as between man and man. The Chief Secretary told us pathetically that he knew too little of the land question in Ireland, and that during his tenure of office he had been unable to do more than study it in parts. I am sure he will find that any Act of Parliament, based even upon the remarkable recommendations of the Congestion Commission—and when he quoted Lord Dudley and Lord Mac-Donnell, the late Under-Secretary for Ireland, surely he forgets that those gentlemen have all got recommendations of their own, and that the Report of that Commission is not one united Report.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
Only on one point. But the Chief Secretary forgets that he is dealing with congestion where it creates a desire for land. He must know that in proportion to the people whom you have demanding grass land, and who are now dissatisfied, the amount of grass land available, even if you took the whole of it, would not serve to go round more than one-tenth of them. Legislation dealing with congestion does not meet the case, because you cannot by legislation make land. You can take it away from those who have it and give it to others, but you cannot make fresh land. That is beyond even the power of a Radical Government, and 1812 if you let it be thought for a moment that the desire for land and the miseries which arise from congestion justify in any degree the commission of these offences, and that you will proceed to treat them rather by reforms than by punishment, you will go on getting this kind of thing steadily increasing as it has done during the last three years. Do the Chief Secretary and the Irish Government believe that under the Evicted Tenants Act they are going to remove all the difficulties which have arisen in connection with the evicted tenants question? Whereas it is only possible to find accommodation for a few hundreds, applications have been made on the part of thousands. While you can only hope to deal with a limited number as the Chief Secretary has tried to do, you have an enormous number of those people still clamouring to be treated in this way, still demanding land and demanding to be put back on their farms, and none of these demands can be met. It is impossible by legislation ever to deal with unrest in Ireland. Unless you make it clearly understood that you are whole-hearted and determined in your enforcement of the law, agitation will go on and increase as it has been doing during recent months. The Chief Secretary told us that he was entitled not only to decide as between the two courses open to him, but that he was entitled to be judged fairly by his critics. Of course he is. But, on the other hand, we are entitled to ask whether the law has been enforced in such a way as is likely to make the people believe you are in earnest. But you have prosecuted the followers and left out the leader. What would be the effect produced here in England if, in the case of riots led by people who were well known, and by their position were entitled to lead their fellows, the prosecution was directed against those who followed and those who led were left out altogether? The same effect would be produced as is produced in Ireland, and until you make up your mind without fear or favour to prosecute and punish, so far as you can, those who are responsible, not only as followers, but as leaders, in the commission of these offences, you will have, whatever may be your intentions—and nobody denies that they are good—the same sorry tale to tell that you have had to tell to-day, viz., to admit that every 1813 one of these statements is correct, that the increase in crime is as stated, that you have had to add to your proclamations more counties, and that you are obliged to appeal to friends and opponents to help you in a task which you have found greater than you are able to accomplish. The Chief Secretary went on to make an appeal to all parties in Ireland. I venture to say, and I am speaking with some knowledge of what I am talking about, that in that portion of Ulster from which the majority of the Unionist representatives come, and who generally side with us on this side of the House, there has been, especially during the last year or two, a steadfast and an honest attempt to do that which would tend to the general peace and quiet of the country, to support the Government in their efforts to maintain peace on those difficult occasions when there is risk of collision between Orangemen and Nationalists, an honest attempt to prevent disorder and bloodshed. I can promise the Chief Secretary that so far as those for whom I am entitled to speak are concerned, there will be every assistance given to him and his Government in any effort they make to maintain the law. The Chief Secretary urged just now that he ought not to be charged with treating with levity the great question of the government of Ireland. There are many men in Ireland, not politicians, but honest citizens, farmers, landowners, and tradesmen, who believe that by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, whatever may be the position of the Chief Secretary, the claims we make on behalf of Ireland are treated, if not with levity, at all events with contempt. We contend that every statement we have made has been admitted to be correct by the Chief Secretary. He admits that his record is unsatisfactory, but he says it will be worse if he does other things. We say that that is not the opinion of Ireland. We say that when you have fairly administered the law between all classes of the people without fear or favour the result has always been a diminution in crime and an increase in the prosperity of the people and those very results, peace and happiness, which the Chief Secretary and his predecessors found in Ireland when they succeeded a Unionist Chief Secretary and a Unionist Administration. It is impossible to carry on a debate of 1814 this kind on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill. It is quite obvious that there are many Members of the House who want to talk about other questions and the time at our disposal is very limited. I accept the statement of the Chief Secretary that he would have been glad to be allowed to have his Vote discussed, but I think it is little short of a public scandal that questions of this magnitude, affecting the happiness of a considerable section of His Majesty's subjects, should be so inadequately and so insufficiently discussed. We have raised the discussion not because we want to delay the business of the House, but because this is the only occasion on which we can put before the House what we believe to be the true situation in Ireland, and upon which we can voice our conviction that those who are responsible for Irish Government have lamentably failed in the discharge of their primary duty.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said that obviously he could not let the speech to which they had just listened pass without a word of reply from the point of view represented by his hon. friends and himself. He would have been glad if there had been more time to take some notice of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. With great fairness the right hon. Gentleman, before he came to describe the atrocities of his successors in the employment of the guillotine, made a confession of the atrocities of himself and his own Government. He said that in the session of 1904 there were £31,000,000 of money voted without discussion, and in 1905 £50,000,000. He could have shown to his heart's content that his successors had voted even much larger sums under the guillotine without advancing his cause. The right hon. Gentleman was distinguished from those who had succeeded him by the fact that he had no remedy for the present state of things, and that the present Government had a remedy. Was there a man in the House who did not know that the process of closure, reaching its ultimate form of violence in the guillotine, was going to go on from year to year, augmented by every successive Government, until in the end they might come to the time when practically free discussion, in the 1815 old sense of the word, would have entirely disappeared? What was the real root of all this? Was it the wickedness of one Government or of another? Was it because the Tories were wicked and the Liberals more wicked still? When either a Liberal or a Conservative used that language in Opposition he had his tongue in his cheek. When the Opposition became the Government they would employ the guillotine, and when the Government became the Opposition they would denounce it. The real root of the whole thing was that the Imperial Parliament was trying to do not merely the great work of the nation and the Empire at large, but work which ought to be left to local bodies in England, Wales, and Scotland, as well as Ireland. It was something like irony that the Leader of the Opposition, himself a Scotsman, should use the same figures as to Supply voted under the guillotine as; an argument in favour of the status quo that he (Mr. O'Connor) used to prove that Parliament had broken down in its work of Imperial control of its finances and as an argument for transferring to a Scottish Assembly the adequate, wise discussions of purely Scottish affairs. He had heard with alarm the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that in his opinion this Parliament had lost real control over the expenditure of the country. According to his theory the only reason the House now discussed the Estimates was that the discussion of Estimates gave them an opportunity for the discussion of policy. Of course, that was one of the great purposes and functions of discussions in Supply. But he was sure the people of this country would be alarmed and astounded if they could realise the meaning of the words of the man who for fifteen years was the leader, almost the dictator, of their great representative assembly, when he said that under the present system the House of Commons had practically lost all control over the expenditure of the country. Those were general questions, and he had no right to stand between the House and other hon. Members who wished to address it. With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he stated that he was in favour of legislation for the purpose of dealing with the problem of congestion in Ireland and he was glad to hear that pledge.
§ MR. WALTER LONG
said he did not pledge himself to anything. What he said was that he was in favour and always had been of removing any grievance in Ireland.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said that congestion happened to be the serious question at the present moment, and he inferred that the right hon. Gentleman had that in mind. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not take anything like a factious opinion in dealing with grievances which were admitted by all parties in this House. The theory of the right hon. Gentleman was that if there was disorder and crime in Ireland there was only one way of dealing with it, and that was by putting into operation certain portions of what the right hon. Gentleman would call the Crimes Act, but what he preferred to call the Coercion Act. He objected to the employment of the word "crime "in this connection. The right hon. Gentleman had committed himself to the statement that there was not a single statement of fact with regard to Ireland brought forward by himself and his friends which had not been fully confirmed. That was an astonishing phrase. He had claimed that a general case had been made out, but what was that general case? He did not mean during the session of Parliament, but during the recess which preceded that session. Was there a single hon. Member who did not read in scores of speeches and leading articles that the only analogy to the condition of Ireland was in Macedonia or Armenia. That appeared almost in every speech of the members of the Tory party and in articles in the Tory Press. There were 10,000 murders in four years in Macedonia, whereas in twelve months of Irish history with which the comparison was made there was not a single agrarian murder. Therefore Irishmen had a right to complain when their national character was villified with such gross and wicked exaggeration by gentlemen who would resent being told that their object was to sow dissension between the people of England and Ireland. What were the facts with regard to crime in Ireland? Would any man say that it was fair to speak of cattle-driving in the same terms as one would apply to the scores of murders which had defaced the annals of history. What was the case? Was 1817 there a single Assize Court in this country where a Judge in the last twelve months had been presented with white gloves? There was not one that he knew of. As a matter of fact there had been more trials and offences tried at one country Assize Court in England than in the whole of Ireland in the period named. In Limerick and in two or three other cities of Ireland the County Court Judge had been presented with white gloves because there were no offences to try, and all over the country Judges had been congratulating the population. In the face of this universal testimony to the crimelessness of Ireland, it was a little too bad that not only hon. Members above the gangway but responsible men like the Leader of the Opposition should endeavour to picture Ireland as one mass of bloodshed and violence like Macedonia. As to disorder, how was that to be removed? The policy of the Leader of the Opposition was to revive the Coercion Act. In debating Coercion Acts for the last thirty years he never knew one which did not aggravate the evils which it sought to remedy, and he believed that if to-day Ireland was free from crime, although not free from disquiet and disorder, it was because the Chief Secretary had had the courage to resist the enormous and gigantic pressure of true and false statements which had been used to induce him to apply coercion. The administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin was dead and gone, and he could therefore speak of it without acrimony. He would venture to tell the right hon. Gentleman that it was the opinion of every sane man in Ireland who took a wholly impartial view of politics and administration as he was giving to Ireland would have led to an outburst of crime which would have made his task impossible and would have defaced the annals of Ireland, creating bitterness and bad feeling more than ever existed before. If the present Chief Secretary had followed the policy of his predecessor and applied coercion, what would have been the effect? The whole of the Liberal Party were pledged to the hilt against coercion and had voted session after session for the repeal of the Coercion Act. If the Liberal Party had applied coercion, what would have been the 1818 position? If a policy was right in his opinion it should be applied whether it led to the success or failure of any political party here or there. What he was concerned with was that the application of coercion to Ireland by a Liberal Government would have meant the swallowing of all the pledges which the Liberal Party had made, and it would have destroyed the moral character and repute of that party, besides digging another deep gulf of mistrust between the people of England and Ireland. To the Government it would also have meant the bankruptcy of democracy in this country. What was the real cure for the present state of Ireland? What was the cause of disturbance? The Chief Secretary had stated that it was not merely that there was a grievance in Ireland, but that there was a grievance which was admitted by all parties in this country and in Ireland, viz., that side by side with the congested districts in which the people had herded together so long, were vast tracts of splendid and fertile land, miles of which were not broken by a single human being. An influential Royal Commission had reported in favour of the solution of that problem by increasing the size of small holdings, and adding to them portions of this untenanted land. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin deny that this was a wise way of meeting the question? It was something that would make one almost weep for the tragedy and irony of Irish life, that this solution of the question had been waiting now for generations, and had not yet come. Why was there disorder in Ireland? Because they had been waiting for this remedy, not for decades, but for generations, and even for centuries. Had they not suffered enough and lost enough? At the present moment in England they were discussing the problem of how to get the people back to the land. In this country they were all alarmed and moved by the tragedy of village life, because the villages were becoming empty, and their best sons and daughters were crowding into the congested streets of the great cities. In Ireland the problem was exactly the opposite. They did not want the people to come back to the land, they wanted them to remain on it, and that was a policy which every hon. Member ought to support. They ought not 1819 to be asked to wait any longer. During his own time Ireland had lost a third of the population it had at the time when he was born there sixty years ago. Every year there was still this tremendous hemorrhage going on. To the extent of 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 a year Ireland's sons and daughters were leaving her shores. No more touching sight than the partings amid tears and prayers of the Irish emigrants from their native soil could be witnessed. He asked that they should be allowed to remain within the shores of their own land. Let the right hon. Gentleman restrain his own followers from such violent, exaggerated, and malicious language as to the real condition of Ireland. Let him help to give to the right hon. Gentleman promptly such legislation as would satisfy the proper demands and the patriotic aspirations of the masses of the people.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. CHERRY,) Liverpool, Exchange
said he would endeavour as shortly as possible to deal with the speech of the right hon. Member for South Dublin. He had no complaint to make of the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech; he thought indeed that the Chief Secretary and he had cause to be well satisfied with the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had referred to them personally. He had made no attempt, like some of his followers and many newspaper writers, to insinuate and suggest that the Chief Secretary had not been actuated with the desire to suppress crime and, disorder as much as he possibly could. The right hon. Gentleman he thought would admit that, whether right or wrong in its methods, the Irish Administration desired quiet and order in Ireland.
§ MR. CHERRY
said that being so, it was only a question of methods. The right hon. Gentleman had severely criticised them, first, because they had not put the Crimes Act in force, and secondly, because they had not prosecuted the leaders, but had attempted to prosecute the followers. He thought he would be able to convince the right hon. Gentleman that the two charges resolved themselves into one. As regards the Crimes Act, he did not 1820 know if the right hon. Gentleman was in agreement with the nobleman who was Lord-Lieutenant when he was in office, but they remembered the eloquent speech made by Lord Dudley early in the session, in another place, when he expressed himself as opposed to the use of any portion of the Crimes Act. In the House of Commons the senior Member for Dublin University, when asked if he was of opinion that the Crimes Act should be put in force, declined to answer the question. He cited these two leading statesmen for the purpose of showing the House that those who had been connected with the administration of Ireland, on either side of politics, recognised how serious a step it was to put the Crimes Act in force, and how desirous everyone was to avoid making use of it. It appeared to him that the objections to making use of the part of the Act which did not require the proclamation by the Lord-Lieutenant were as great as to the rest of the Act. Section 2 enabled a person charged with unlawful assembly to be tried before a special Court composed of two resident magistrates. That special Court was composed by the Lord-Lieutenant, acting on the advice of the Attorney-General, who selected two resident magistrates, not judicial persons, it must be remembered, but ordinary Civil servants liable to dismissal. Then the Attorney General sent some representative to appear before these gentlemen. He made no charge against the resident magistrates, and he assumed that the Attorney-General would not prosecute unless he was satisfied there was a strong case for conviction, but let the House look at the effect on the public. The public saw a tribunal appointed by what was called the Castle, and a prosecutor coming down from the Castle, and they said the accused had no chance. He was of opinion that if they put this clause in the Crimes Act into force in Ireland, farewell to the idea of persuading people that the administration of the law was fair and just. They could not do it, and it was for this reason that they had sought to avoid, and would still seek to avoid, putting this particular law into force. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the fact that the followers were prosecuted and that the leaders were allowed to go scot free. In saying that he had repeated a charge which had 1821 been made again and again during the past year. That charge was made against them because one particular individual was not prosecuted, namely, the Member for North West Meath. They all knew that during last autumn and winter the hon. Member carried on a campaign in favour of cattle-driving. There were clamorous cries in the Press and from hon. Gentlemen opposite to prosecute him, and the Government were charged with cowardice for not doing so, and were accused of sympathising with his words and acts. What was the reason for the course they took? They believed, and still believed, that by prosecuting that gentleman they would have increased his influence instead of diminishing it. He did not think that at the present day he was capable of carrying out a cattle-drive of the smallest possible dimensions. [An HON. MEMBER: Thanks to Judge Ross.] He said it was thanks to the action of the Government, which persisted in ignoring him instead of making a martyr of him. If they had prosecuted him they would have done so according to the ordinary law, and what possible chance would there have been in the temper Ireland was in last autumn and winter of securing a conviction under the ordinary law. They must clear their minds of cant. He did not want to deny obvious facts, and everyone knew that a prosecution before a jury at that time would have been absolutely futile. Did the right hon. Gentleman suggest that they ought to have brought such a prosecution? It was for that reason that he said that the two points came into one. If they had wanted to prosecute the hon. Member in any other way for trying to encourage a campaign of cattle-driving they would have been compelled to put the Crimes Act in force. Did the right hon. Gentleman think the occasion required an interference with the ordinary law which would destroy any possible chance of getting the mass of the people or the country to believe that the law was fairly administered? They had heard a great deal about the amount of intimidation in Ireland. There was a great deal of intimidation in certain counties, but there was this feature which they must recognise as certainly a very favourable one, namely, that this intimidation was not accompanied or followed by serious crime. There were many cases of shooting in 1822 the air, or booing on the road opposite a man's house, and a great deal of unpopularity was occasioned to people who took grazing land, but they had had no case of agrarian murder, and they had had practically no serious crime. There was only one serious case in Galway. There had been no period in the last forty years when there had been less serious crime. Intimidation was a serious thing, and the Government would take every possible means of putting an end to it. They viewed it with horror. They wanted the House to distinguish between disorder and crime. There had been a great deal of disorder, but very little crime. Disorder was steadily decreasing. Reports from Galway and Roscommon were most favourable, and the police in both these counties believed that the worst was past. They had every hope that before another year was out disorder would have disappeared.
§ *MR. STUART WORTLEY
said that his hon. friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool had drawn a comparison between the relative proportion of crime in Ireland and in this country. He was not inclined to sit silent when anyone contended that the Irish population was less disposed to crime than the English population. When such an imputation was made it became necessary to place on record the fact that twenty years ago the Report of the Prisons Commissioners for England and Wales showed that in the prisons of England and Wales the prisoners of Irish birth were 10 per cent. of the prison population, while persons of Irish birth in the ordinary population of England and Wales were only 2 per cent. He would be the very last person to make use of that significant fact as a basis for wounding criticism of the Irish race; for it must be patent to everyone that that test had to be considered along with the not less important tact that the Irish population which contributed to the crime of England and Wales lived under squalid circumstances in industrial centres through no fault of their own. Not only were the scenes under which they lived not those of their own beloved country, but the conditions under which they lived were more squalid and remote than those in which they 1823 would be living in their own land. He hoped that if comparisons were to be made again the very significant figures to which he had drawn attention would be borne in mind in order that these comparisons might not be made use of for the purpose of hurling recriminations backwards and forwards across the Irish Channel.
SIR HERBERT ROBERTS (Denbighshire, W.)
said he wished to draw attention to a question of importance to all interested in Welsh education. Certain points of difficulty had recently arisen connected with the relations of the Central Welsh Board to the Welsh Department of the Board of Education. On Tuesday last, a deputation representing the Central Welsh Board waited upon the President of the Board of Education for the purpose of enabling representations to be made with regard to the points at issue. His right hon. friend in the course of his reply indicated his desire to meet, as far as possible, the views submitted to him. It appeared, however, that there was a certain amount of misunderstanding and misapprehension as to the purport of the reply of his right hon. friend, and in view of the importance of the question and the desirability of removing those misconceptions, he thought he was justified in taking this opportunity of calling attention to the facts, in order that his right hon. friend might be able to dissipate, as he would be able to do, the doubts and fears that had arisen. The conditions under which the Central Welsh Board worked, and its relations to the Board of Education, were questions which in the sphere of Welsh education went beyond mere departmental routine. The Central Board was regarded in Wales as the foundation of a large measure of educational autonomy. For many years it had been devotedly served by men who had unstintedly given their time, energy, and thought to the cause of education. Everybody in the House would agree that it was most important that nothing should be done to damp the ardour of those men who had played their part in a notable experiment with reference to education in Wales. Whilst admitting, therefore, to the full the necessity for the exercise of such supervision by the Board of Education as 1824 was rendered imperative by the payment of Parliamentary grants, all would recognise the importance of doing everything possible to secure cordial co-operation between the Central Welsh Board and the Board of Education. There was but one opinion as to the value of the work accomplished by the Central Board, and the President of the Board of Education in his reply to the deputation had, in the most generous terms, paid his tribute to the character of that work and its value to the cause of education, and the place of that body in Welsh life. There was only one opinion on that point, and he wished to express his appreciation of the admirable way in which the officials in London—the Secretary of the Welsh Education Department of the Board of Education and the Chief Inspector—had endeavoured to serve the educational interests and to promote the educational ideals of Wales. He would like to refer to one or two main points on which representations were made to the President of the Board of Education in connection with the difficulties which had arisen with regard to the exercise of their functions in relation to educational progress in Wales. The first point, he might mention, was the statutory powers of the Central Board. There had been, he believed, some idea in certain quarters that the Government were in some way desirous of interfering with the Central Board's statutory powers, but his right hon. friend had made it absolutely clear that so far from interfering with these statutory powers, he was personally anxious for a further extension of autonomous powers with regard to education in Wales. He might remind the House with reference to the attitude of the Government to this question, that it was this Government which proposed in the Bill of 1906 a scheme of complete educational autonomy for Wales, and to give it a national council of education, which provision was afterwards thrown out in another place. That ought to be sufficient to dissipate any doubt as to the real determination and desire of the Government. That was his first point; and he hoped there would be no further contention upon it after this debate. His second point related 1825 to the system of dual inspection owing to the existing conditions with regard to the administration of the Parliamentary grant. No one denied the inevitable inconveniences of such a system. The late President of the Board of Education made it perfectly clear a year ago that he fully recognised the inconveniences of the dual system, and the same view was held and had been expressed by the present President. However, they were face to face with the fact that while the conditions regulating the payment of the grants continued, the President of the Board of Education must exercise such supervision in inspection as would enable him to fulfil his obligations to Parliament. There had been a growing fear that the inspection of the Board of Education would, as time went on, become more exacting, and that the evils of the dual system would be accentuated. That point was pressed by the deputation, and the President of the Board of Education made a statement, the meaning and value of which he did not think was fully understood. The right hon. Gentleman expressed his desire to reduce to a minimum the inconveniences of the dual system, subject to the fulfilment of Parliamentary conditions. He firmly believed that there was much in that statement, and he hoped that in his reply the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give a somewhat fuller expression of his meaning and of the views he had put before the deputation, in order that all doubts on the point might disappear. Another point which the deputation emphasised was the desire of the Central Board to have, if possible, some recognition in the Welsh Code for secondary schools in Wales and Monmouthshire of the position of the Central Board in regard to intermediate education. Great weight was attached to this point, and he hoped that the President of the Board of Education would give just consideration to it, and see if something could not be done in the matter. Another point had arisen in connection with the new arrangements with reference to the methods of correspondence. According to the present requirements of the Board of Education, all correspondence had to be conducted directly between the Welsh Education Department and the schools concerned. A 1826 great deal of feeling had been aroused with reference to the difficulties which had arisen from this procedure. He ought to make it clear that he did not think any Welsh Member desired for a moment to press for the retention of any system which was educationally unsound, but they held the view very strongly that all matters connected with curriculum, forms, time-tables, etc., should be handled by the Central Welsh Board; and that all communications on such matters should be made, as heretofore, through that Board. The right hon. Gentleman had undertaken to give this matter his consideration. In conclusion, he had only to add that from the outset of those proceedings he had never had the slightest doubt as to the attitude of his right hon. friend towards the Central Welsh Board, and he felt assured that his right hon. friend was determined to do nothing which would in any way weaken its influence or authority. But, in view of the misconceptions which had arisen, and having regard to the importance of the question, and of every question relating to education in the minds of the people of Wales, he would press his right hon. friend to make a statement which would give to Wales and to those interested in Welsh educational autonomy, an added assurance as to the mind and intention of the Government on this admittedly important subject.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF EDUCATION (Mr. RUNCIMAN,) Dewsbury)
said the assurances which he had given to hon. Members representing Welsh constituencies were real assurances. No one in the United Kingdom who had been interested in secondary education for the last fifteen or twenty years could overlook the fact that the Central Welsh Board gave an impetus to secondary education in Wales long before the movement spread as it had done. He was not sure that the secondary school system of Wales had not been supported with even more enthusiasm in Wales than in Scotland, and no one who knew anything of intermediate education in Wales was likely to do anything to hamper the machinery that had done so much good. The history of secondary education in Wales was bound up not only with 1827 the Central Welsh Board, but with other institutions. The only funds in the old days at the disposal of those who conducted secondary education in Wales were the funds provided by way of a Treasury grant. Since those days Parliament had become more generous, and already the Parliamentary grant had become nearly three times that of the old Treasury grant. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had control of the national finance, and he hoped his right hon. friend would take note of the ominous fact, that whereas the Treasury grant had remained stationary all these years, the Parliamentary grant had gone up, and only this year they had increased the grant to Wales, so that all the Welsh schools were dealt with on identically the same basis as the English schools. Discrepancies had arisen last year which led to the unfortunate distribution of less among the Welsh schools than among the English schools. The whole of the grants, however, were now paid on the higher basis of £5 per child. The difficulty about the Parliamentary grant lay in the fact that the Minister who distributed it must be prepared to give an account to the House of Commons of the way in which it was spent, the standard at which the schools had been maintained, and how far the secondary school system had not been confused with the lower system. He had no tendency towards extravagance, and there would be no such tendency while he was at the Board of Education. He had no intention of sanctioning any method which would in any way restrict the funds available in Wales or in England. A Minister could only be answerable for what took place in the distribution of money under his control provided that those who represented him in the provinces and elsewhere were his immediate servants. He admitted that the whole system of dual inspection was to be deprecated, and that in so far as the Department could get rid of it, every effort would be made in that direction. He reminded the House that one effect of the change initiated by his predecessor and carried out by Mr. Owen Edwards resulted in diminishing dual inspection to an enormous extent in Wales. In Glamorgan, Cardigan, Carnarvon, and in the town of 1828 Cardiff, which represented about half the total population of Wales, there was under this arrangement no dual inspection whatever. That was the first step in the right direction, and he hoped it would be recognised that under their administration efforts had been made to get rid of this troublesome duplication. Next year there would be a further diminution of the inspections, and those inspections would be restricted to the bursars who were being taught in the secondary schools. He thought it quite conceivable that they might be able to extend elimination as the years went on, but he could not promise that they would be able to wipe out all the Board's inspectors in Wales. They intended, however, to make as much use as possible of the Central Welsh Board, rather than cover the ground twice over, although that might be necessary in some cases, and that nobody could object to. Mr. Owen Edwards not only understood what high educational ideals were, but he was a typical Welshman. His one desire was to raise the standard of the schools. The other points raised were not of such great importance. The question of the correspondence was a very trite matter, so far as the Central Welsh Board was concerned, and the only letters that could be cut out of the ordinary routine of headmasters were such letters as related to open-air work, epidemics, etc. Those letters could be better dealt with if they passed direct to the Board of Education rather than through the Welsh Central Board, and then on to the Department to be answered. The next point raised had reference to curriculum and time analysis forms, etc. The Government were of opinion at the time that these forms could pass to and from the Board and the schools. It did not really much matter one way or the other. If they passed through the Welsh Central Board it only meant that they would be reprinted and that would cause delay. He saw no reason in the world why the system which worked fairly well last year should not be continued. To that end he had given instructions that the next forms which were moved should be on the old basis, and not on the system adopted during the current session. The last 1829 point which had been raised was the insertion in the code of direct recognition of the Central Welsh Board. This was a matter which he could not go into until after consultation with those who were responsible for the financial relations of the House. He could not accept right off the suggestion which had been made because he had not had an opportunity of discussing it with his colleagues, and he hoped, therefore, lie would be excused from giving an answer on that point at the moment. He hoped that the Welsh Department of the Board of Education and the Central Welsh Board would do everything in their power to diminish the amount of friction which must necessarily be associated with the educational system. His sole desire was to see that the scholars should have the benefit of the best system of education that they could organise and that local interest should be encouraged, because on the enthusiasm which was created depended the prosperity of the Welsh schools. Reference had been made to the Half-timers' Committee which was set up last week, complaint being made that there was upon it nobody strictly representing the agricultural interest. He did not shut his eyes to the fact that the half-timers' question did, of course, touch the agricultural districts as well us the manufacturing districts, and in so far as the reference to the Committee was concerned, if it did not touch agriculture, he would like to know what it did touch. He presumed that everything which could be discussed with regard to half-timers both in the agricultural and manufacturing districts would come within the purview of the Committee. That, was his view, and he was sure that it would be carried out by his hon. friend.
§ *MR. BRIDGEMAN
said that what he had stated was that the reference to the Committee prevented evidence being taken except in one direction.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
said he did not agree that it would prevent evidence being taken except in one direction. The whole question could be and would be thoroughly inquired into by his hon. friend and those associated with him. He did not believe in packing a Committee with partisans all on one side or the other. 1830 He believed in getting a good and impartial judgment, and that was what he had aimed at. In regard to any difference of view on the part of the hon. Member it was a difference not as to method, but as to the policy which lay behind—a policy to which the Government strongly adhered, namely, that they would not allow any district to be monopolised by denominational schools. That had been their object, and they intended as far as they could, if they could not do it by legislation to do it by grants of money both to England and Wales. The hon. Gentleman asked why so much more money had been spent in grants in Wales than in England. So much more money had been spent in Wales because the case in Wales was so much worse than in England.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
said he was very glad the hon. Gentleman did not complain, for certainly they had relieved the tension in a good many Welsh schools by the expenditure of public money, opening them to the children of all denominations. The hon. Gentleman had also called attention to three schools at Pontfadog, but there, again, the hon. Gentleman complained that they had granted money which was to cover the whole cost of the schools. He joined issue with the hon. Member in regard to that complaint. No money was provided towards the cost of the site, and if they only granted money sufficient to provide for the cost of the building they were not covering the whole cost of the school, which must include both structure and site. They had paid nothing whatever towards sites, and he would be the last to allow Imperial money to be spent for a purpose of that kind. The hon. Member complained that they had not taken advantage of Section 18 of the Act of 1902, and had thrown the burden on the parish. He would point out that the beginning of the section provided that a part of the burden was to be put on the parish concerned, but that referred not to the grant which they asked from the Exchequer, or through the Board of Education, but to the expenses of the county 1831 council, who would have to carry out the provisions of Section 18. He presumed, therefore, that the cost of the site would be one of the items which would have to be allocated according to Section 18 of the Act of 1902. He believed he had replied to the whole of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman; if he had not, perhaps he would have an opportunity of doing so next session.
§ LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)
said the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had mistaken altogether the point of the criticism of the administration of his Department. His hon. friend the Member for Oswestry had not made any attack on the policy of providing an undenominational school in a single school area where there was a demand for undenominational teaching. It would be utterly opposed to the general run of his opinions, and to the general run of the opinions of those who sat in that quarter of the House. The right hon. Gentleman was pleased to appear surprised at that statement. It was perfectly well known, as he had endeavoured to convey for the last three years, that their object was not to maintain a monopoly of any particular kind of religious thought, but to provide equal treatment for all. That had always been their object since he had had the honour of a seat in that House. He had said so over and over again, and several of his hon. friends had said the same. Their objection had not been in the least to these grants, and if the right hon. Gentleman turned to the pages of Hansard he would not find the slightest criticism of the policy of providing grants for the purpose of building schools where the religious feelings of the neighbourhood required an alternative school to be erected. But they said, and said as strongly as they could, that the method adopted by the Government in this Bill and in previous Appropriation Bills was a very unfortunate method to adopt, and it was one of the reasons why he was going, in Committee on the Bill, to bring the matter to a point. Another reason was that the result of it had been that all sorts of irregularities had cropped up in the administration 1832 of the grant. The right hon. Gentleman had wholly failed to meet the case under Section 18 of the Act of 1902. That section gave a specific direction to the county council to charge to the locality such portion as they thought fit, not being less than one half, of any expenses incurred by them.
§ LORD R. CECIL
Incurred by the county council in respect of capital expenditure. That was an absolute mandatory direction. The grant did not in any way interfere with the duty of the county council to provide schools under the Act of 1902. It could not interfere with that; it was the sole business of the county council, the local education authority; it alone had to provide schools. The Board of Education could not build the schools; they had not the power to do so. All they did was to say: "If you build the schools we will give you a grant towards the building. We cannot do anything else." Therefore, it was still the expenditure of the county council—an expenditure which was met to some extent, not altogether, by the grant to the county council. All that the Government could do was to pay the local education authority a grant in aid of their expenses, and a portion of the expense was thrown by the county council on the locality. And it was very evident why it should be so. It was right that the locality which had the benefit of these schools should be a very considerable contributor towards their erection. That was the policy of the Act of 1902. Very grave inconvenience arose from the course which the Government had adopted in this light-hearted way at the beginning of last session, apparently not in the least knowing of the section of the Act of 1870 which was in their way, and only realising it in the course of a debate after eleven o'clock one evening. That as exactly what happened last year.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Does the noble Lord suggest that money provided by us, is an expense of the county council?
§ LORD R. CECIL
The school is an expense, and the money provided by you is a grant towards that expense. That is all it can be.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
Does the noble Lord contend that the balance which is not provided by us is to be borne partly by the parish and partly by the county council? If that is so, that is what actually takes place.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he was contending that all the Department could do was to provide the amount which would be required by the county council. The county council were bound by statute to throw at least half the cost of the school on the locality. They might pay half the whole amount out of the Treasury but that was all they could do. He did not say that it was a reasonable result, far from it; it was a highly unreasonable result, but it was the result which the Government had chosen. If they had passed a short Act legalising the matter, they could have put in proper conditions to meet the difficulty, and they would not have been put in the position of being forced to commit rather more than an irregularity, merely for the purpose of getting rid of difficulties which they themselves had created. It appeared to him a very unfortunate precedent, particularly in the case of a Government which set up to be a Government of financial purity, to set to the House and the country.
§ *MR. WILLIAM JONES (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said they were all glad to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education, for both in tone and substance it would allay some suspicion that had arisen in Wales as to unfriendliness on the part of the Board of Education. The right hon. Gentleman had emphasised two or three things which appeared in one of the latest Reports of his Board, which stated that although it was true the secondary schools of Wales had in recent years been receiving grants from the Board of Education and had, in consequence, come within the regular inspection of the Board's staff, yet,The unifying and standardising effects of the Central Welsh Board still continue and are of determinative importance.1834 He thought it would be a very easy matter to transfer some of that same kind of recognition into the Code. His right hon. friend had remarked upon the great interest shown in matters relating to education in Wales, and here were the words, not of a Welsh educationist, but the Report of his own Department—The needs and desires of the people most closely concerned have found expression and exerted influence on the schools, by means of the Central Welsh Board, from the outset and continuously, in a manner that has not obtained in any county in England.They could not compare anything in England or Scotland, in connection with this question, with the desire which existed in Wales for secondary education. So the only thing now was to realise the words of the right hon. Gentleman when he said he was not going to curtail any of the powers of the Welsh Central Board at all, and that nothing should be done which was not of a nature fully consonant with the dignity of the Central Welsh Board and the responsibilities of its position. Mr. O. M. Edwards, the Chief Inspector of the Welsh Department, was a distinguished Welsh Nationalist who understood the Welsh atmosphere and environment, and he hoped he would, under the right hon. Gentleman's behest, come into intimate touch and close relations with the officials of the Welsh Central Board, even in regard to methods of inspection and curricula, so that the dual inspection should be reduced to the irreducible minimum. Inspection did not mean close and detailed examination. It meant practically coming more into counsel with one another, and understanding each other's system. It was done in America and on the Continent of Europe, especially in Germany and Switzerland, where the State inspectors periodically met the superintendents of education and the teachers in friendly consultation and conference. He hoped the same method would be adopted between the Welsh Department of the Board of Education and the Central Welsh Board. The Central Welsh Board in all matters relating to secondary education should be the reflex of the national mind, until they were able to set up what was the universal desire of Wales—a National Council of Education to cover elementary, secondary, and technical, and likewise the training of teachers, so as to 1835 secure perfect autonomy over all these systems. He thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his speech. It would be thoroughly understood by the Welsh people, and the Welsh Department would be in close harmony with the administration of the Welsh Central Board.
§ *MR. MONTAGU (Cambridgeshire, Chesterton)
regretted that he was not yet satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's assurances about the Departmental Committee on half-timers. He said almost with scorn that he refused to pack his Committtee and to represent the various interests which must be affected adversely or favourably by the employment of half-timers. That was all very well when he came to consider the schemes of agriculture, but he noticed that the woollen manufacturers were very well represented. In answer to a question put by him the right hon. Gentleman said on the previous day that it would be impossible under the terms of reference to consider evidence which would lead them to recommend the increase of half time for children. He had now informed the House that the Committee would consider this and all other evidence on the subject, and although it was too late to urge the appointment of some agricultural representatives, this was an improvement, for which he thanked the right hon. Gentleman, very much on his previous attitude. But although the right hon. Gentleman considered there was nothing very much more important in this world than education, there was, when they were considering the education of children in primary schools in rural districts, one more important question still, and that was that they and their brothers and sisters who did not go to the schools should be well fed and clothed. Among those who dwelt in! towns there was often an opinion that children who were fortunate enough to spend their lives in the country were more fortunately placed. But nothing was more remarkable than the ease with which epidemics ran right through a village, the low power of resistance among country children to disease, and the prevalence of horrible, almost inexplicable ailments, such as consumption and cancer. This was often very largely due to lack of the good nourishment, which the parent, existing on low wages, was unable to afford. There was a very large amount 1836 of rural opinion directed to urging the Government to permit children to engage in healthy agricultural operations, and to attend school either in the evening or at the seasons of the year when they could not be employed in the open air, and it was contended that this possible sacrifice of education would be well atoned by the improved physique of the agricultural labourers. There was no doubt the real remedy for these evils was an increase in the wage of agricultural labourers, but so long as their wages were low they might be beginning at the wrong end by insisting upon education for children which was only obtained at the cost of their food. It would be a very serious matter if, now that the Committee was appointed, evidence of this important aspect of the case should be refused, and if his right hon. friend would only give them once more a complete assurance that all this evidence would be received by the Committee he would be more or less satisfied.
§ *SIR GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N.W.)
said there were two or three aspects of the Congo question which were almost entirely overlooked in the debate on the Foreign Office Vote. Although the Foreign Secretary spoke on the outlook as somewhat hopeful, he confessed that the information given them did not appear very reassuring. If they could elicit from the right hon. Gentleman some further information on what he based his views it would be reassuring to a great many who at present felt a great deal of uneasiness at the fact that they were about to separate without any more definite understanding than they had received. The real causes of uneasiness that existed were mainly two. The first was that the debates in the Belgian Parliament had really partaken of a retrograde rather than a progressive character, and the second was that the cruelties against which so much indignation and feeling had been expressed had not yet in any sense abated. His right hon. friend had spoken of the desirability of keeping the commercial and humanitarian aspects of the question separate, but there were strong reasons why they should not be kept separate. The government of the Congo Free State was entrusted to the Belgian King after his profession of an earnest desire to secure good and beneficent government for 1837 the inhabitants, and it was because his professions were implicitly trusted that the Powers agreed to the conditions to which they did agree. Had the humanitarian views upon which this agreement was based been carried out, they would have seen from the commercial point of view a very different condition of things from that which existed now. He had no doubt that they would have had a prosperous trading community in the Congo Free State if the conditions of settlement had been faithfully carried out, instead of having now to look upon this so-called Free State as a devastated and almost worthless colony from the commercial point of view. In this case the commercial and humanitarian views of the question absolutely depended one upon the other, and were intertwined in a way which did not often happen in these colonial questions. The cruelties which had been connected with the administration of the Congo Free State were still going on, and he wanted to put it earnestly to his right hon. friend whether it was beyond their duty and their power to say that, while these discussions were going on in the Belgian Parliament, and the slow and devious processes of diplomacy were at work, the demons of cruelty and extortion should hold their hands. The statements which had been made inside and outside the House had been amply verified by the Government Papers, as well as by other reports that came to hand. These reports were still coming. They might be less terrible in the accounts they gave of mutilation and bodily injury, but they showed a long drawn out series of privations, equal to anything they had heard of in the past—villages destroyed, people driven forth to live as wild beasts, because they could not bring in the tale of rubber, men compelled to work many miles away from their homes, because the forests round about had been devastated, and women and children held as hostages whilst the men were away endeavouring to accomplish their impossible task. It was proved beyond doubt that the labour tale which these men had to yield meant in some instances 300 days out of 365. This indictment was proved by what appeared in the last White-book that was issued, and it was still strengthened by what was going on in this sad and miserable land. Such 1838 treatment was not only against the laws of all civilised countries, but what was of more importance to the House and to his right hon. friend was that it was in direct opposition to the undertakings on which the Congo Free State was founded. They might well ask of what value treaties were when they were allowed to be broken year after year as this treaty had been broken. If the life of one of our own fellow countrymen had been at stake the reparation demanded would have been followed up with vigour, and they would have had redress long ago. Here was a case in which the lives of tens of thousands of people had been destroyed, and their happiness blackened and blotted out, and he believed that we had a certain measure of responsibility, and no small measure, for the sacrifices which had been made to meet the cupidity of the monarch in direct contravention of the conditions upon which he was allowed to take over the government of that country. He could assure his right hon. friend that he would be supported in endeavouring to assert the rights of this country in regard to treaty obligations into which we in common with others had entered. This was practically the last chance they would have for some months of discussing this question in the House, and he for one felt horrified at the idea of separating without some assurance, and without receiving from the Foreign Secretary some answer which would enable them to feel that he intended to take a firm and consistent attitude in regard to the matter. They had demanded that unless at the end of this session annexation was agreed to on suitable conditions consistent with our treaty we should proceed under our treaty rights to take action, and he hoped that action, if taken—and he believed it would be taken in conjunction with America—would be successful. He wanted to point out to his hon. friend that the promise which the House received so gladly from him on 26th February he had not yet been called upon to fulfil, because the session had not yet terminated. But what were the prospects of the condition of things coming into existence under which he would have to act? In the columns of the Morning Post of Monday last, 1839 there appeared a telegraphic message to this effect—Debate on Colonial Bill reached dead-look, and as discussion cannot be brought to a close it will be broken off on 15th August and referred to the session of October next when the Bill and the Treaty of annexation may be withdrawn by the Government.There was also a further telegram to the following effect—No annexation Vote this session, probably not this year. Object of King to prolong statu quo indefinitely believing we are not in earnest in our promise to interfere in administration of Congo Free State. Probably present Cabinet fall. Change of Government again bring delay by which King can engineer long delay before new Government.All that was highly probable under the present condition of things, and notwithstanding the promise which they received with so much satisfaction on 26th February, he contended that something further must be done to meet this dilatory action on the part of the King and the Belgian Parliament. Just a few words in regard to the position of the Parliament itself. He confessed that those of them who had seen extracts or full reports of the debates in the Belgian Chamber had not been quite able to follow the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman when he said that a very different view was taken of the question of forced labour now from that which was taken a short time ago, and perhaps he would be able to tell them upon what that assurance was based. It seemed to him that the views expressed by many of those in the Belgian Parliament, and some of them in high authority, went directly adverse to the promises which had been made. M. Hymans, the Liberal Prime Minister of Belgium, said recently—The whole Chamber is agreed that the Act of Berlin gives to no Power the right of interference in the Congo.M. Renkin, the Minister for Justice in the present Belgian Government, said—Property is a monopoly but it is not a monopoly of trade. Forced labour is necessary or civilisation is arrested.M. de Smet de Naeyer said—The native is entitled to nothing.And the President of the Appeal Court of the Congo State said—The native only respects the law of force and knows no other argument than terror.1840 Those were samples of the expressions which had been used in the Belgian Parliament, and he failed to see that there was any change in the attitude of Belgium for the better in regard to this vexed question of forced labour. But the main point which he desired to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman was that which he had already mentioned, namely, the probability of further postponement, with all the unhappy conditions which now existed still going on. Even if annexation was agreed to by the Belgian Parliament it did not appear to him that the Ministry intended to act up to their treaty obligations. It was a very serious thing to contemplate that in the Colonial Bill they found that the leading officials on the Congo Executive at Brussels were to be in the new Belgian administration. A very small majority at the last election in Belgium had been returned in favour of the Government, and there would have been no majority at all in his opinion if the people of Belgium had known the whole history of this sad affair. He had never brought any indictment against the Belgian people. They had no sign whatever that the Belgian Government acknowledged that for which his right hon. friend had always firmly contended, namely, the rights of natives in the land, or that they wore prepared to allow the natives to trade between each other and outside traders. Therefore they insisted on commercial as well as on moral grounds that this basic right must be conceded before any steps towards annexation could take place. Forced labour under those conditions was slavery of the worst kind. The assurances in the White-book No. 3 from the Belgian Government were weak and insufficient, and even those assurances found no place in the debates in the Belgian Parliament to which he had referred. Therefore he thought they ought at once to repudiate the assumption that the Belgian rights in the Congo Free State, were equal to those of the other Powers in the Congo. His right hon. friend had done that already, but in reference to the assertions of the Prime Minister in the Belgian Parliament he felt that this repudiation should be more vigorous in character, so that the Belgian Government and 1841 the King might know that when we asserted this position we were determined to maintain it. What rights the Congo Free State possessed they obtained on specific obligations given not only to this country but to other Powers. They had defied those obligations and they now asserted that their rights were unlimited. He could give extracts one after another from speeches made in the Belgian Parliament asserting that those rights were unlimited and yet they took no exception to the despatch of the right hon. Gentleman which reminded them that after annexation the Congo State would remain subject to the provisions of the Berlin and Brussels Acts. They must not allow the Belgian Government to assume that the Congo administration had been properly carrying out the provisions of the treaty, because, in point of fact this administration had not only defied the international Powers who signed the treaty, but it had practically defied every provision of the treaty. One of the provisions was to help the natives to secure free trade and a variety of other things, and it would be quite germane to this debate to read the obligations which the King of Belgians took upon himself in connection with this matter in the first instance, but he would not do so as time would not permit. He was aware that in the government of native races we ourselves had not absolutely a clean slate. We had, however, always recognised that the land was the property of the people where there was a population to occupy it, whereas in this case all the land had been declared vacant land. They had some vague promises that grants might be made to the natives under certain conditions when annexation took place. As they were all aware, land was no use without labour, and labour under the conditions which existed in the Congo must be slavery. He hoped they would agree that no conditions in the form of annexation would be accepted which did not first of all admit the communal rights of the tribes where they existed. They should also insist that all those cruelties which were exciting in the minds of British people feelings of horror should be put an end to. There was one remedy which he 1842 hoped his right hon. friend would take in hand at once, and that was to appoint more Consuls in those districts in the Congo Free State. He felt that the presence of an active British Consul in one or other of these districts which were being devastated would have a very beneficial effect. He hoped this condition would be insisted upon, and that this country would withhold its recognition of annexation until such guarantees were given as would ensure the proper carrying on of the government of the country. It was now four years or more since these negotiations began, and many times in this Parliament they had discussed this very important question. It had also been discussed in great assemblies all over the country, and he thought the time had come when Belgium should be made to understand that no more dilatory process of dealing with this question would be allowed. He hoped that his right hon. friend would say that the time had come for some more definite action, This was in no wise a party question. It was a subject which had excited the indignation of a great many of our fellow citizens throughout the kingdom, and if ever there was a case in which the life-blood of a people called loudly for help this was a case, and he could not feel that they would call upon his right hon. friend in vain.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir EDWARD GREY, Northumberland, Berwick)
Everyone knows that great anxiety and very deep interest are felt in this country with regard to the decision which the Belgian Parliament will, I presume, now take in a very short time. But I will ask those who do feel anxiety in regard to this question to remember also that, however much the decision may be a matter of anxiety to those who have treaty rights in regard to the existing Congo State, it must be a matter of very great anxiety at this moment to Belgium herself. The Belgian Parliament is on the eve of taking one of the most anxious and momentous decisions that have ever been before a State—the question of whether they should take over, with all its obligations and all the existing conditions now attached to it, this enormous territory of the Congo. It is really impossible for us to discuss with complete freedom, at a moment when the 1843 decision of the Belgian Parliament is in suspense, the whole question of the Congo. I do not think it is fair, and I think it would be resented there, if, while they are in the throes of a decision, they were to be harassed by constant declarations from a foreign Government on the subject of the Congo. What I thought the other day was necessary was that the position of the British Government and its view of its treaty rights should be made quite clear to the Belgian Government and published before the Belgian Parliament came to its decision. That has been done in the Papers already laid and published, and further Papers will be laid very soon. I should have been glad if they could have been laid this week, but it is only fair that they should be laid simultaneously here and in Belgium. I am now informed that they cannot be published before the beginning of next week, and the House will then have risen for what, after all, is to be a comparatively short holiday. I would ask hon. Members in advance to bear in mind that, although the Papers cannot be published for a week, yet, when the Papers do appear, further correspondence must take place, and before any final decision is come to which commits this country to any final view of the matter, the whole question will be seriously considered by His Majesty's Government. We shall also have to consider the view which the United States takes of the situation, and further Papers will be presented to the House before the country can be committed in any way to a final view by His Majesty's Government on this question. That covers one part of the question of my hon. friend. Another point which he pressed was—What will happen supposing the Belgian Parliament do not come to any decision to annex? I replied the other day to the hon. Member for Gravesend, and I take the same view of the situation which would then arise as I did when I then spoke. A very serious question would arise for us to consider. Supposing Belgium decided not to annex, and supposing we had, for an indefinite time, to deal with the existing state of affairs in the Congo, which we consider has been a violation of our treaty rights and of the obligations on which the Congo State was originally founded—if we have to revert to that situation—then a very serious question will have arisen. It 1844 cannot be a departmental decision on our part; it must receive the serious consideration of His Majesty's Government as a whole. All I can say now is that, if that situation does arise, it will receive the serious consideration of the Government as a whole, because we are not prepared to revert to the old condition of affairs under which for years our treaty rights have been violated. I trust that such a situation will not arise, but that the Belgian Parliament will soon come to its decision, and will not leave us in any doubt. But should the Belgian Parliament come to a decision not to annex, then, as I have said and I still hold, the situation is one which His Majesty's Government will have to consider very carefully, and whatever we do must be some new departure from the old policy.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)
called attention to the prison treatment of the suffragists now undergoing terms of imprisonment for offences arising out of the "votes for women" movement. Whatever might be said of the merits of the claim, he maintained that the offences for which the women had been committed to prison were political offences. There were between twenty and thirty women, in prison for offences connected with the movement, and until quite recently he had not the smallest notion that there was anything rigorous in their treatment. Political prisoners were treated as first class misdemeanants, they were allowed to do their own work, they had their own food supplied to them, and they were allowed to see their friends. In short, they were placed in the same position as Dr. Jameson when he was committed to prison in connection with the Transvaal Raid. But he found that the treatment to which these ladies were subjected was very much the reverse. They had behaved like heroines, for, to do them justice, they had made no complaint themselves. He had not the slightest idea that these ladies were placed in a position of humiliation, and that they were subjected to severe physical hardships, until casually he looked at a newspaper and saw a letter from an old friend, Mr. Logan, in which he described what his daughter had endured during six weeks imprisonment. The treatment meted out to that brave girl was not what anyone should be 1845 subjected to for a suffragist offence. Mr. Logan stated in his letter that his daughter, who had just been released, was confined during twenty-three hours per day in a solitary cell, and that the hour during which she was let out was divided between attendance at chapel and a round of exercise. The cell was unwholesome, and it rarely let in the light.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
The salary of the Home Secretary is in the Appropriation Bill. My contention is that the Home Secretary should have removed these ladies from the second class division to the first class division.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That does not rest with the Home Secretary. It rests with the committing magistrates. That has been pointed out several times. It is entirely in the discretion of the magistrates.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
Irrespective altogether of that discretion, the Home Secretary is the Minister who exercises the prerogative of mercy, and he can modify these sentences. The precedents are strong. There is the precedent of the Jameson case. There are the precedents of cases in which prisoners are sentenced to death and where the Crown commutes the sentence. Of course, if you think that I am in the slightest degree out of order, I will not pursue the subject now, but I will raise the question in another way. I am criticising the action of the Home Secretary in not advising the Crown to place those ladies, notwithstanding the magistrates' decision, in the position of first-class misdemeanants.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am afraid that is a matter which the Home Secretary has not in his power. It rests with the hon. Member to show that he has the power. I have heard it several times denied from the box.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
This is the constitutional law of the case. The Home Secretary is the Minister responsible for the exercise of the prerogative which the 1846 Crown has, and which has never been taken from it, to modify a sentence. He is the person who has really the control in this matter. He is the Minister of justice. These matters—prison regulations and the moving of offenders from one class of misdemeanants to another—are actually vested in him, and would be vested in him no matter what any statute says, unless the prerogative of mercy, vested in the Crown, is abrogated by statute, and, not only abrogated by statute, but abrogated by the previous consent of the Crown.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
These ladies were imprisoned by their own choice.
And, it being a quarter past Eight of the clock, and there being Private Business set down for consideration by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.