§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn until Wednesday next, at Twelve of the Clock; that, upon that day, the House do consider Lords Amendments to Bills of which the consideration forthwith is moved by the Government; and that Mr. Speaker, as soon as he has reported the Royal Assent to the Bills which have been agreed on by both Houses, do adjourn the House, without Question put, until Tuesday, the 15th November next."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. CLANCY
I desire to put a question to the Chief Secretary in reference to a matter which is not only important but urgent. About a fortnight ago, when the Irish Estimates were under consideration, the Chief Secretary made a promise in regard to the Labourers Bill. That measure has not been produced yet, and some anxiety exists as to when it will be passed. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that at the present time the issuing of schemes under the Labourers Act is practically suspended all over Ireland, and if the measure cannot be passed into law before the Autumn Session, I would suggest to the Chief Secretary that the circular previously sent to the local authorities ought to be withdrawn and another circular issued intimating that they may go forward with the preparation of schemes. We should feel very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman if he could make any statement upon this subject.
§ The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
Although it is quite true that I have not had the time during the last few days to proceed with the financial Resolution which the Labourers Bill would require, I am glad to be able to inform the House that I have come to a settled arrangement with the Treasury in regard to this financial proposal, and there will be no difficulty in the future. The reason for not proceeding with the measure is simply that I have not had the time to carry through a Bill, which will be introduced at the very earliest moment in the month of November. In view of the assurances that the Bill meets with approval in all quarters of the House, there is no doubt it will become law without difficulty during the Autumn Session. It is most important that the Irish people should know what is waiting for them in that respect, and I have already, through 2585 the Local Government Board Report, inserted a paragraph stating that an extra £1,000,000 will be advanced, and that consequently the Act of 1906 will be supplemented by that extra amount. Accordingly, pending schemes which have been the subject-matter of discussion between local authorities and the Local Government Board can now be proceeded with, and other schemes can be considered. If it is necessary to issue a circular I will consider it, although I think the Local Government Board Report will give all the necessary information to the local authorities they need. It is intended that this Bill shall become law before the end of the year.
§ Mr. ASHLEY
I wish to draw the attention of the Foreign Office to the state of Morocco and the disorders which have taken place there. It has been plain to all who have read their newspapers that the misrule and the state of rebellion which exists in that country has been increasing during the last twelve months. I think the attitude of His Majesty's Government in reference to this question is very well summed up in an answer which the Foreign Secretary gave to the Member for East Aberdeenshire some ten days ago. The hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire asked whether the Sultan had recently addressed to representatives of the Powers a voluntary letter, in which he undertook to suppress all cruel punishment; whether the wife of the Governor of Fez had been tortured, whether other members of the Governor's family had died in consequence of the tortures inflicted upon them, and what steps the Government were going to take to end such a disgraceful state of affairs; and whether they were going to approach the other Powers on this question. The answer of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was distinctly unsatisfactory, for he stated that he could not deny the statements which had appeared in the Press relating to the tortures, and said he regretted that no information had reached him to show that those statements were untrue. Therefore, the Foreign Secretary did not deny those atrocities, but practically admitted that they had taken place. He said the Government would be ready to co-operate in any action which would put a stop to such cruelties, and he added that the matter was one of great difficulty. Members of the Government, and especially the Foreign Secretary, are there to overcome difficult situations, and they do 2586 not receive large salaries in order to reply that the situation is a difficult one. The reply that the Government are ready to co-operate is not in accordance with the traditions of this country. This country in the past has always been ready to right wrongs in foreign countries, but the record of the present Government have not been in accordance with the traditions of this country since they have been in office. I do not think the Foreign Office, in the pressure they have put upon Congo administration, have come out very well. Congo maladministration has been going on for many years. I wonder what Mr. Gladstone would have said to an answer such as the Foreign Secretary gave to the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire? What would Mr. Glad. stone, who shook the Conservative Government to its foundations in 1876 with his speeches and pamphlets. about the Bulgarian atrocities, have said if he had heard a Foreign Minister say that the English Government were willing to co-operate in any efforts to secure an amelioration of these atrocities, and that it was a difficult subject? I think the present Government have departed very greatly from the old Liberal traditions in sitting tight and seeing these atrocities continued in Morocco.
I admit Muley Abdul Hafid is a man very difficult to deal with, but, in the case of a potentate to whose court you have a Minister accredited, and in whose towns you have British Consuls living, then, whether he is a man difficult to deal with or not, I submit we must either endeavour to put au end to these atrocities or withdraw our Minister. The Sultan has voluntarily sent a Circular to the Powers that he was going to abolish all these atrocities. It leaked out that in his own palace he tortured to death many members of the present family of the Governor of Fez, and it was rumoured that the wife of the late Governor had been shut up there and tortured. The Consuls of this country, of France, of Germany, and of Spain went to the Foreign Minister of Morocco and asked if these rumours were true, and if this wretched woman had been tortured. The Foreign Minister assured the Consuls, on the word of the Emperor of Morocco, that no such things had taken place. They were not satisfied, and I think the British Consul deserves the greatest credit for the indefatigable persistence with which he pursued this subject. He would not take "no" for an answer, and eventually, by constant application at the Moorish Foreign Office, he succeeded in getting 2587 permission for two lady missionaries of the Medical Mission in Morocco to examine this wretched woman. They found she had lost entirely the use of one arm and one hand from the tortures which had been inflicted upon her, despite the fact that the Sultan denied anything had been done to her at all. Her shoulder was dislocated, and they found wounds all over her body from the chains with which she had been suspended from the walls. I put it to the House whether it is right we should continue to submit to such proceedings as this. We withdrew our representative from Dobra when certain atrocities took place in Servia, and why should we treat Morocco any more tenderly than we treated Servia? I know the answer will be given that by the Agreement of 1904 with France we allowed France to take the lead in any effective action in Morocco in return for their giving us a free hand in Egypt. I admit that is so, but we have not thereby bound our hands and said we will do nothing at all. It is still open to us to approach the French Government and point out that these atrocities are taking place. I am perfectly sure, if it is pointed out to them with sufficient persistency, the French Government will readily take the lead to do what they can to diminish these barbarities. It is only because the Foreign Office have been remiss in bringing these matters before the French Government and in pressing them upon them that no efforts have been taken to put a stop to them. This is a matter which concerns the honour of England, and the Foreign Office would do well to put it before the French Government. I am quite sure, if they do, they will find them most ready and willing and anxious to do all that they can to end this disgraceful state of things.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I want to call attention to the decision of the Government to grant no further facilities for the Parliamentary Franchise (Woman) Bill which passed this House by such a large majority a few weeks ago. It will be within the recollection of the House that that Bill was introduced on 14th June, and that a few days later the Prime Minister, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Shackleton), promised to give time for a Second Reading Debate on the Bill. It is perfectly true he said that it would not be possible for the Government to grant 2588 further time for the further stages of the Bill, but the promise of the Prime Minister is not like the laws of the Medes and Persians; it varies very often from day to day. The Prime Minister on that occasion, in reply to a supplementary question I put to him, said that he would not give an early day for the Second Reading Debate, but within a week he promised not only one early day but two early days. I think we are therefore justified in not accepting the refusal we received yesterday as being the final answer of the Government to the request we have made. The Debate on the Second Reading took place, and the enormous majority by which the Bill was carried was a surprise even to the friends of the Bill, and we base our demand for further facilities practically on that result. The Bill was carried by 109, a larger majority than was given for the Budget or the Veto Resolution. The Government refused to accept that vote of the House of Commons as a mandate to continue the Bill through its further stages. If the vote on that Bill did not mean that the majority of the House of Commons wants the measure to be passed I should very much like to hear what it did mean, because there never was a Division which was entitled to be regarded more as a free and independent, expression of opinion. It was given without the pressure of party Whips, and the Debate was one of the most strenuous and serious which has even taken place in this House. The vote was given against the views and in spite of the appeals of the most influential Members of the Cabinet, or, at any rate, in spite of the appeals of two who, I suppose, would like to be considered as the most influential Members of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister himself spoke strongly against it, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did the same. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appealed to the democratic faith and aspirations of the Radical Members of the party, and the Home Secretary, by wholesale misrepresentation tried to secure the rejection of the Bill. But they all failed, and the point I want particularly to criticise is that they all laid special emphasis on the serious consequences of the vote on the Second Reading. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said: "This is not a Bill merely affirming a principle. The question is that the Bill be now read a second time." It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who heard the Debate that the Chancellor 2589 of the Exchequer said to me, "If you regard this Motion for the Second Reading of this Bill as being the mere application of a principle, then I will vote for it, but if it is to be a vote for the Bill I go into the Lobby against it." In reply to that I put this question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the promoters of the Bill, "If we will withdraw this Bill will you pledge the Government to give us time for the consideration of a Bill more to the liking of certain Members of the Government." The right hon. Gentleman refused to meet that. After the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues, can it be said that the majority on the Second Reading was not a majority for the Bill? The right hon. Gentleman cannot say it was not an expression of the desire to deal effectively with this question on the lines laid down in the Bill. The Home Secretary said much the same thing. He said, "We have got to recognise what a vote for the Second Reading of this Bill means. It means really the Third Reading of an ordinary Bill." After all this, the House voted by an overwhelming majority for the Second Reading of the Bill. Remembering that the Home Secretary had said that this is a vote for the Bill, did it not show that the House wanted the Bill and was prepared to fight the House of Lords on it?
The Prime Minister also opposed the Bill on two grounds. I am not now concerned with the first—which was a perfectly reasonable and legitimate objection. I am concerned only with the second reason, which was that the Bill was not democratic. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to give a definition of the word "democratic," which I confess I wholly failed to understand. But it is not a question whether the Prime Minister thinks it democratic. One would attach just as much importance to the Prime Minister's opinion on that subject as we are prepared to attach to the opinion of any man holding a responsible position in this House. But other Members are equally entitled to an opinion on the matter. Thirty-three Members of the Labour party voted in support of the Bill ! Surely they are as good democrats as the Prime Minister? One hundred and sixty Members of the right hon. Gentleman's own party—equally good democrats—voted for the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no principle in the Bill. I reply that it embodies the old Radical principle that taxation and representation shall go together. The Bill, indeed, pro- 2590 poses no new principle. It simply extends the present franchise for Parliamentary purposes. The Prime Minister sneered at a want of logic and common-sense in the Bill. But an illustrious predecessor of his once said there was no logic in our franchise. I go further, and say there is no logic in any Bill passed by this House. We do not legislate logically. But there is common-sense in this Bill. The common-sense principle of this Bill is that where the woman pays the taxes like a man the woman should vote. That is an easily understood and understandable principle. The Prime Minister later still, dealing with the same matter, said:—The Bill deliberately leaves off the women best qualified to exercise political rights, the wives and mothers of the country.It is really surprising what affection for the wives and mothers of the country certain Members of the Cabinet have in this regard.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that he is not entitled to discuss the Bill, or the arguments for or against it, still less to reply to the speech of the Prime Minister on the occasion of the Second Reading. What he is entitled to do is to criticise the Prime Minister for not having found time for its further stages; that is to say for not managing the business of the House according to the views of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Surely I am entitled to give reasons why an urgent and imperative matter should be dealt with during this Session. The second reason given by the Prime Minister was that there was no demand in the country for this Bill, and indeed Members of this House who might have approved the principle had no authority from their constituents to support the Bill. I want to show that that is not so, and to press upon the Government to give facilities for pressing on this measure at once. The Prime Minister said that this House had no mandate to deal with the question, it was not before the country at the last election, but I may remind him that he went down to the Albert Hall just before the last election and although there he dealt mainly with the constitutional question, the only pledge that the Prime Minister gave on that occasion was one to the effect that he would give the House of Commons an opportunity of passing a Franchise Bill. Then he says it was not before the country, but I say that he 2591 himself by his speech made it one of the two dominating issues of that election. I venture to submit that I have established three points in favour of my contention, first, that there is a strong demand for the passing of this measure. In the second place it is women who demand the measure, and in the third place there is a mandate from the country. But the most important point of all—and this is my charge against the Government—is that this House by its vote has demanded from the Government that an opportunity should be given during this Session to proceed with the further stages of this Bill. What the vote upon this Bill meant was that the Members who voted for it wanted this question dealt with. I am not going to insult the Members who voted for this Bill by saying that they gave an uncertain vote, if this vote does not mean what the figures imply, will somebody tell me what is the difference in this House between a sincere and an insincere vote? Will anybody tell me how the majorities in favour of the Veto Resolutions, when Members were driven into the Lobby on party grounds were honest opinions and, how when on this occasion they were perfectly free and were not under the same intimidation and could vote as they pleased their vote is not according to their honest conviction. All this talk about the worthlessness of the majority is so much waste of breath.
It is the tactics of defeated men. The House of Commons has said it wants this Bill, and it wants the Government to give facilities for it, and if the Government deliberately refuses to allow the will of the people as expressed by their representatives to prevail in this Parliament, they must reconcile that with their attitude upon another question. I repeat to the Government what I said on the Second Reading of the Bill, that if they are not satisfied with it the Bill will be withdrawn if the Government will give an opportunity for effectively dealing with the question. The Prime Minister has promised to do that, but he will not redeem the promise.
There are two explanations why the Government allowed a Second Reading Debate but refused further facilities. The first is that they expected that they would be able to kill the Bill on the Second Reading. I do not think the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary would have 2592 opposed the Bill as they did, and risked their reputation for influencing the House, if they had not believed they were able to kill the Bill. They did not succeed. The second explanation I can give, which has a very pertinent bearing on the demand I make, is that by giving a Second Reading and mocking and exasperating the women by permitting the Bill to go no further, they can goad the women into extreme militant tactics once more. The Prime Minister perorated, in his speech on the Second Reading, against militant tactics in regard to this platter, and I agree with every word he said. I believe this House ought not to be terrorised into giving a vote that is not in accord with its convictions. Militant tactics would not have been justified if the House had refused the Second Reading of the Bill, but the House by its vote said it wanted it, and the only obstacle the way of realising it is the despotic power of the Ministry to refuse to give an opportunity for the will of the people, as expressed by their representatives, to be given effect to in the present Session. I personally have never defended militant tactics, but if the Government refuse facilities for this Bill or say they will not put forward an alternative proposal, the whole situation is changed, and there are tens of thousands of women who have opposed militant tactics and have confined their agitation to constitutional methods but who realise that new methods are needed. The main argument which was advanced against woman suffrage in Debate was that the final court of appeal was force, and therefore the women cannot be blamed if they accept the advice which the opponents of woman suffrage have given them, but I hope it will not come to that. I hope the Government will be wiser and will put into practice some of that democracy of which they speak, and will give an opportunity during the Autumn Session for the will of the people, that good old rhetorical formula, as expressed by their representatives prevailing within the lifetime of the present Parliament.
Mr. RODEN BUXTON
I wish to refer to one aspect of the political situation in which we find ourselves, the question of the arrangement of the business and the date of the Adjournment. I understand these arrangements have been made and this date fixed on the assumption that there has got to be a cessation of hostilities of some kind or other. I do not complain of this cessation of hostilities. I 2593 quite recognise that it may be a necessary thing which could not have been avoided. I have not the material for criticising the conduct of either the Government or anyone else in reference to it, but I wish to urge upon the Government one fact, which they may be aware of but are not, I think, sufficiently aware of, and that is the very disastrous effect which this period of cessation of hostilities necessarily has and has had on the fortunes and prospects of the progressive forces in this country. I think that they may be well aware of it. But I think it is not out of place—and I know that in saying, so I am expressing the opinion of a great many Members besides myself—to once more emphasise these evil effects in order that they may not by any chance be left out of sight, and that if we are to have a period of cessation of hostilities, which may be necessary, we shall at least recognise the price we are paying for it, and not be going into it with our eyes shut. What has been the effect on this House? Of course, it has had the effect of removing the main subjects of controversy, but it has not stopped there. It has produced a general feeling of lassitude and a sort of paralysis of all legislation, or almost all. Some of us have been anxious to see, but for this cessation, some minor measures which could not be regarded as controversial in the ordinary sense passed into law, but we have found that it has been practically impossible to get, for example, measures dealing with milk supply, the so-called white slave traffic, street trading by boys, and the hours of labour in shops, even though introduced by a Member of the Government and with the authority of the Home Office. We have seen these measures, as it were, paralysed. I speak with great hesitation as a new Member. I do not understand the processes by which these things are worked, but, so far as I have been able to understand, the reason why these things have not gone through is ultimately traceable back to the fact of this cessation of hostilities to which I have referred. If you turn to the country, the effect has been worse still. What is happening at the present moment is that the progressive forces in this country find that their hands are very largely tied, and that they are not able to speak on many of the subjects which interest them, while their opponents are carrying on their work with their hands untied and perfectly free to deal with subjects which interest them. This is the price we pay for the cessation of 2594 hostilities, and I do respectfully urge upon the Government not to forget that it is a very heavy price. There is a waste of energy going on. There are many Members in this House anxious for work. We hear a great deal of the fatigue which exists. There are many Members who are not fatigued, who are ready for work, and who are perfectly ready to go on. I do venture to say that they have exercised very considerable patience and self-restraint in not taking the measures which they might have taken—I will not say to make themselves disagreeable, but to make themselves heard. I do not complain of the date of the adjournment, because, although there are many of us who do not feel fatigud, we know that there are a great many of our colleagues who do. I do not say for a moment that a holiday is not necessary, but I do lay stress on this one point, which I think has been insufficiently realised, that this fatigue of which we speak, this lassitude for whose sake we are now adjourning, exists among politicians and not among the main body of the electors of the country. I do not believe for a moment that the electors of the country are unwilling to enter into political affairs, or take part in political controversies. I speak only of my own experience. From my own experience the reverse is the case. People are tired of the complete suspension of political controversy. They are interested in political affairs, and it is the politicians, the Members of Parliament, who have been taking a more prominent part in these matters who are tired. I hope we shall not place the responsibility for our long and somewhat disastrous delay upon the electors of the country, who do not deserve the charge.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I listened with great attention to the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. C. Buxton) who has just sat down, but I confess I am very little wiser in the end than I was in the beginning as to what is his precise charge or cause of complaint against His Majesty's Government. He talks about a cessation of hostilities, but if his suggestion is that the Government were ill-advised after the death of the late King when they entered into these consultations and deliberations with responsible statesmen opposite that is a charge which at the proper time and in the proper place I am prepared to meet. But I do not see how he substantiates the suggestion that there has been mismanagement of business in 2595 this House. As a matter of fact, we have got through a great deal of business. The Statute Book of this Session when it comes to be published will be found to be rich in measures of very great social and some political importance. I do not think, having regard to the conditions under which this Session has been held, the compulsory adjournment owing to the death of the Sovereign, the necessary diversion of interest at a time of great public mourning, that any of us have reason to look back with regret on the manner in which our time has been spent. My hon. Friend, I think, was hardly serious in contending that we are allowing ourselves too long a holiday. He said very justly that he is a new Member. Others of us are not new Members. Many of us have been sitting practically without any intermission except for the stormy interlude of the General election since the month of February, last year. Does my hon. Friend seriously think that men who have gone through this experience are likely to be able to perform the duties which they owe their constituencies in the country unless they allow themselves now a reasonable period for recreation and leisure. I am glad to see that he is so very fresh, and full, of appetite for work. I hope we shall be able in the course of time to minister to him, and, perhaps, even to satiate him. Meantime he must allow those of us whose voracity is not so great, and whose digestive power is somewhat impaired by the excessive strain which has been laid upon us during the last two years, to bring ourselves as soon as we can to a level with himself in the matter of energy. Let me now turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). The hon. Gentleman suggested that it was the duty of the Government to give further facilities this Session for the Women Suffrage Bill, which received a Second Reading the other day. Let us see what the facts are. I refer first of all to my answer of 23rd June, to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), who asked for an early opportunity for the Second Reading of the Bill. The answer was framed by the Cabinet, a majority of whose Members are in favour of women suffrage—in my Cabinet I am in a minority in that respect—so that this is the considered answer given by the Cabinet in its responsibility. I said:—The Government have considered this matter, and recognise that the circumstances of the case are excep- 2596 tional, from the fact that under the conditions which govern private Members' proposals the House of Commons has never had an adequate opportunity of discussing so momentous a change. They are, therefore, prepared to give time, before the close of the Session, for a full Debate and a Division on the Second Reading of the Bill which has been introduced.That is the case. Then I go on:—In view of the exigencies of other Parliamentary business and their own announced decision not to prosecute contentious legislation, they cannot afford any further facilities for the Bill this Session.The promoters of this Bill accepted that statement made by me as the mouthpiece of the Government, accepting our offer to give two days to the Second Reading, with the absolute knowledge from the first that they would have no further facilities of any sort or kind for the progress of this measure. It is utterly ridiculous, and worse than ridiculous, that the hon. Gentleman should make the charge that the Government have been guilty of anything in the nature of a breach of faith. I adhere absolutely and precisely to the statement I made, on the faith of which facilities were afforded for the Second Reading. How do I go on? So far I have dealt with this Session, and I have said that the promoters should have a full Debate on the Second Reading, and nothing more. I go on:—The Government recognise that the House ought to have opportunities, if that is their deliberate desire, for effectively dealing with the whole question, and the course of the debate may he expected to throw instructive light on Parliamentary opinion, both in regard to this Bill and other proposals."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1910, col. 488.The plain meaning of that was that if it was a deliberate desire of the House to have an opportunity for effectively dealing with the whole question, the Government, not in this Session, because I had already expressly stated in the previous sentence that it would not he in this Session, in the future would be prepared to afford the opportunities. What is "effectively dealing with the whole question"? How was it understood by everybody, and how was it explained in the course of the Debate? You cannot effectively deal with the whole question on a Bill, whatever the merits or demerits of the specific provision, which has its title so carefully framed, that it is impossible to move a substantial Amendment. The promoters of woman's suffrage may not be well advised in bringing forth this Bill, but if they want to satisfy the condition, which in the name of the Government I laid down, whatever the contents of the body of the Bill, you must have a title so large and so elastic that the whole question of woman's suffrage, and not one of a 2597 particular limited application to it, may come under the consideration of the House. I call that effectively dealing with the whole question, and I am certain that in that sense our words were universally understood at the time. The hon. Gentleman referred the House to the large majority as an expression of opinion in favour of this Bill. In the whole course of his speech he never referred to the Second Division on the Bill—a very remarkable omission. A majority of 109 was given in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill, and it was undoubtedly a majority in favour of the principle of Women's Suffrage. But when it came to the question of a second division on the Motion whether this particular Bill should be allowed to go any further in this Session, what was the state of opinion of hon. Members? The number of the Division showed a majority of 145, a much larger majority than was obtained for the Second Reading, for getting the Bill on to the floor of this House, which everybody knew who took part in the Division, meant the making of no further progress in the course of this Session. You could not have a clearer indication of the will of the overwhelming majority of the House of Commons that this particular proposal was not to be proceeded with further this year. What has happened since? In the argument which the hon. Gentleman brought forward to-day to induce the House to alter the decision it then deliberately arrived at, there is nothing that appeals to reason. The only argument the hon. Gentleman used was not an appeal to reason, but it was an appeal to fear. I am not going to repeat what I said on the Second Reading, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman, and those for whom he is for the time being the mouthpiece, that if he thinks by considerations of that kind to change the Government or the House of Commons from the line they have deliberately assumed, he is very much mistaken. I have only to say in conclusion that the Government strictly adhere to the course they laid down before this Bill came on for Second Reading. They are prepared to carry out in the letter and spirit the pledge which they gave for the second time, and there is no foundation or ground whatever in reason or justice for the hon. Gentleman's complaint that we are not giving further facilities for this Bill.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I do not profess to be, like the hon. Member for Blackburn, and ardent or enthusiastic advocate of 2598 womans suffrage, though I am a supporter of it, but I am interested in the constitutional aspect of the particular situation we find ourselves in. Here is a Bill which was read a second time in the House of Commons by a majority of 109 votes. Merely from the circumstance that the Government, apparently not unanimously but by a great predonderance of the Cabinet, are opposed to that Bill, it cannot pass into law this Sesssion. It is not seriously disputed that if the Government did give time the Bill would pass into law.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Therefore, the Veto of the Government is conclusive on a legislative proposal. I think that very interesting. I think that is a thing which deserves, quite apart from the merits of this particular proposal, the attentive consideration of the country, that the Government can exercise now and what has been going on for many years, an overwhelming power, and can absolutely condemn any Bill they please. I notice that the Prime Minister said that he had declared all along that no contentious measure would be taken this Session. I think those are his words. That is true, and the Government have kept that pledge if you understand by that statement, and if you understand by contentious Bill, a Bill that divides the two parties. It is quite true that they have not pressed a Bill that divides the two parties, but they have pressed a Bill, and have just carried through a Bill, which is in the highest degree contentious, although it has not divided the two parties, that is the Bill relating to the Royal Declaration, which, precisely in the same sense as the Woman Suffrage Bill, is contentious. There is no distinction to be drawn between the two Bills. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] They are both highly contentious Bills in the sense that they excite very strong feelings; they are neither of them so in the sense that they divide the two parties. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in one of those delightful little speeches he makes, said the other day that the Royal Declaration Bill must be pressed forward because it was read a second time in the House of Commons by a great majority. That was a Bill to go to a Committee of the Whole House, as was the Woman Suffrage Bill. That Bill was pressed forward in a very inconvenient manner, in spite of the protests of hon. 2599 Members on this side and on the opposite side, because the reason alleged by the Minister was that a great majority of the House of Commons had accepted it, and, therefore, that it was entitled to go forward. Why is not that applied to woman suffrage? We know perfectly well that it is not applied because it does not suit the Government to apply it. I do not complain of the Government using their authority to play their own game, but do not let us have any hypocrisy about it. Let it be clearly understood that the Government are not impartial or neutral on this subject, but that, on the contrary, they mean to destroy this Bill by the exercise of their power over the time of the House. The Prime Minister said that by deciding to send the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House the House in effect decided to destroy the Bill. A more unreasonable contention could not be put forward. My right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench voted in favour of the sending of the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House because they conceived themselves bound to do so by reason of their opposition to the general proposition that Suffrage Bills should go upstairs. The Leader of the Opposition gave the immense weight of his vote in favour of sending the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House because he was pledged up to the hilt against the proposition that suffrage Bills should go to a Grand Committee. That has nothing to do with proceeding or not proceeding with the Bill.
I will put a challenge to the Prime Minister which will make the position perfectly clear. If he will not give facilities for the Bill, will he give facilities for the House to pronounce on a business Motion giving facilities for the Bill? There is a well-known Motion which used constantly to be moved, that such and such a Bill, if put down on such and such a day, should have precedence. It would not take a couple of hours to discuss such a business Motion, which might, by the consent of the Government, be moved by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). Would the Government allow such a Motion to be put? I am sure they would not, because they will not allow anything that would enable the Bill to pass. That is their point of view. Why not say frankly, "We are as a Government against the Bill, and we do not propose to allow it to be passed" That would be a perfectly fair 2600 thing to say. It is not fair to say, "We are neutral, we are impartial, and we propose to get all the votes we can on other issues from supporters of Woman Suffrage," all the time meaning to kill the Bill which they have introduced. That is not fair, but that is precisely what the Prime Minister is doing. He is endeavouring to get support from a section of the electorate on an essentially false pretence, that the Government are neutral when in fact they are hostile. They are killing the Bill. The speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Home Secretary were designed to kill the Bill on Second Reading. They were ineffective for that object. It would be exactly the same with any Bill that was brought forward. It would be quite easy to bring in another Bill if the Government would give facilities, but they will give no assurance.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I said that I would do exactly the same thing on another Bill. I voted for all the other Bills.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman knew that they would not be carried, because all the world knew, and I suppose he knew what everybody else knew. But I do not complain. I do not care whether the Bill is passed this Session or whether it is not. I do not make any pretence about the matter. I say what is the exact truth about my position, without any concealment one way or the other. The Government pretend that they are neutral, when they are in fact killing the Bill by the use of their power over the time of the House. The most important thing is the entire contempt which the Government show for the doctrine of the voice and the will of the people. At an earlier period of the Session we heard the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Home Secretary repeat "the will of the people" and "the voice of the people" with something of the melodious reiteration of singers of a glee. In every tone—bass, treble, and tenor—it came over and over again. Now we know that "the will of the people" is merely a phrase which is conveniently used on certain occasions, but to which the Government have no heartfelt allegiance whatever. The Government treat the House of 2601 Commons with great outward courtesy, but with great essential contempt. They are not the first Government that have done so. They will not be the last. All Governments treat the House of Commons with essential contempt. They do what they want, and use the powers of the House of Commons. So long as the House of Commons helps them to do what they want all is well. When the House of Commons ceases to do what they want, ceases to want the same things as the Government, then the powers of the Government are used to nullify, so far as they can, the decisions of the House of Commons. Here was a case in point. All I plead for is that when we have a constitutional question before us we may have some more autere rhetoric from the Government Benches, a little more candour, a little fewer phrases about the public will, a little less denunciation against the House of Lords for doing pre cisely what the Government often do themselves. Let us have a little reality and candour, at all events, and I, for one, shall be satisfied, even if the Government do kill the Woman Suffrage Bill.
§ Mr. ROCH
All I wish to add is a very few words to what has fallen from the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Black-burn, and I join in expressing the hope that between now and the autumn the Government will see their way to give facilities for this Bill. With regard to what happened on the Second Reading of this Bill, we are able to look to the fact that a Member of the Cabinet himself—and we were told by the Prime Minister to-day that the answer he gave, in response to a question by the Member for Blackburn, was framed by the Cabinet—the Secretary of State for War, after taking some credit for the concession given by the Government for the Second Reading of this Bill—and for which we were duly grateful—went on to use these rather remarkable words:—No doubt it is a very important concession that is being made, because if this House of Commons expresses itself very strongly for the principle—That is the principle of this Bill.Then it is reasonable that effective opportunities should he given at some time for that House to translate its feelings into concrete form.That is what the Secretary of War said, that if the House of Commons expressed a strong approvel of this Bill it was a reasonable thing to ask that the House should translate its feelings into concrete form. That is all the promoters and sup- 2602 porters of this Bill are asking to-day. We are taking the Secretary for War at his word. We say, "There is the verdict of the House of Commons; there is 109 majority; give the House of Commons the opportunity to translate its feelings into concrete form." That is all the plea we are putting forward to-day.
Only one other point I would wish to mention. The gravamen of the charge, and I think a real grievance that the women have, is not that Members are against their Bill. That Members have a right to be. The grievance is this: that Parliament after Parliament, Session after Session, there is always apparently a majority for woman suffrage. What happens? Their Bill is promoted. It is frequently carried. It goes no further. What stands in the way? The Government of the day. I think the women have a real grievance, a real and grievous grievance. Session after Session the will of the people emphasises their grievance, yet they are unable to get any further, to have the final judgment of the House of Commons, because there is a new autocracy which has sprung up—that is, the Cabinet of to-day. It stands in the way. With all respect we have to recognise that the Cabinet have expressly said on the question of woman suffrage, "We stand aside." Stand aside for what? To give free play, free running, to the Woman Suffrage Bill. That is all we are asking of the House of Commons, that is all we are asking of the Cabinet, really to stand aside.
It is no use saying we are neutral, but we will deny you a single day or any opportunity of an effective vote. That is not standing aside or being neutral; it is very much nearer to active opposition. That is the gravamen of the grievance which I think the women really have. They have won their case in the House of Commons, but the Government stand in the way and rob them of their victory. I hope between now and the autumn, while the Members of the Government are discussing the bed-rock principles of democracy that the will of the people as expressed by a single Parliament must prevail, I do hope that the large majority in the present Parliament who are in favour of justice to women will be enabled to give their complete adhesion to this bed-rock principle.
§ Mr. W. H. COWAN
An hon. Member who spoke from the other side of the House charged the Government with being 2603 remiss in regard to the diplomatic treatment of outrages perpetrated by the present Sultan of Morocco. I think the Government has laid itself open to the charge of want of courage in dealing with this matter and with this savage potentate. The Liberal party have always stood for redressing wrongs in all parts of the world. The Liberal Government have repeatedly intervened by diplomatic means, and the Liberal party always supported its Government in such intervention. I know there have been occasions on which, with the best will in the world, the Government could not intervene—where the risks would have been too great to justify intervention. That is not the case in Morocco. In Morocco we have certain treaty rights; we are interested in Morocco on account of our great possession at Gibraltar, and we are much interested in Moroccan trade. I am told that the Government cannot intervene in Morocco because it has become a French interest. I submit that if it is a French interest humanity is still a British interest, and I say it is a scandal that we should maintain a British representative at the Court of this monster and do nothing effective, or attempt nothing effective, to bring him to book for the atrocities he has committed almost beneath the eyes of the representative of His Britannic Majesty. We are told nothing can be done because Morocco is a French interest and because we have swopped Morocco for Egypt and retired from the business. We have no longer any right or status in the matter we are told. I submit we should communicate our views to the French Government. We have no right to assume that if properly appealed to the French Government would not respond in the interests of humanity. The French have a magnificent record in this direction. We may be told that the scene of these atrocities is too far from the coast. That is not so. If the French Government considered it essential to intervene at Fez they could do so. I do not know whether it is known generally that only recently, when the Sultan of Morocco engaged certain Turkish army instructors to drill and train his army and brought them to Morocco, the French Government vetoed these appointments and compelled the Sultan not to utilise these Turkish instructors for the training of his army.
Those instructors are still, or were, I think, a few days ago hanging about 2604 Tangiers. It was very strong action on the part of the French Government to say to the Moorish Government and the Sultan, "You shall not employ these Turkish officers." They were young Turks, very capable Moslems, and just the sort of men to train the Moorish Army, but the French Government would not permit it because they preferred the Moorish Army should be trained by French officers. I quote this to show that the French Government has enormous power, and can coerce the Sultan of Morocco when it is to their interest to do so. It is the bounden duty of our Government, in the interests of common humanity, to put an end to these atrocities at Fez by bringing pressure to bear upon the Moorish Sultan. I think our Government must put a little friendly pressure upon the French Government in the interests of humanity. There are many Frenchmen who would welcome the stiffening of their Government a little by friendly representations from our Government, but those representations are not made. We are told that the British Government is willing to join in any pressure by the Powers, but that will not do. We want them to go a little further, take the initiative, and bring friendly pressure to bear on the French Government. We are told that there will be a holy war in Morocco if we take this course. May I remind the House that we heard the same argument in regard to the Soudan and the Mahdi at Khartoum. In that case we were told that there would be a holy war forced upon us throughout Egypt and the Soudan. Nevertheless we went to Khartoum. Lord Kitchener, for whom it is so difficult to find suitable employment. went to Khartoum, and we know that by using ordinary precautions and taking a small force with him, he was able to smile at the idea a holy war. and no such war broke out. I do not think a holy war will break out in Morocco it we do our duty. If the French Government is not strong enough, and not willing to co-operate with us in this matter, then we have another resource. We are not bankrupt yet, and we ought to appeal to the other Powers who are Parties to the Act of Algiceras in the name of common humanity to intervene. In that case we must, of course, listen very carefully and very respectfully to any views put before this House by the Foreign Office, but that position has not arisen yet. Our Government has not put necessary pressure upon the French Government and the Moorish Government, and I think the Government 2605 must show that it is not only willing to join in representation, but it can take the initiative. If they do not, I think we can say that our Government is not living up to the great traditions of our country and of the Liberal party. I am the last person who would ask our Government to embark upon costly expeditions all over the world. I do not claim that it is our duty to act in this way for the whole universe, but where we can it is our duty to put a stop to these outrages. I will not describe in detail the outrages which are being inflicted, but I may have to refer to this matter at a later date, give information in my possession, and communicate it to this House if a stop is not put to these atrocities at an early date. I have heard our Consul at Fez praised for the skill with which he dealt with this matter at Fez in order to ascertain whether the Governor's wife had actually suffered torture.
I think the British Consul deserves great credit, but our Consuls in Morocco generally are not alert enough. They are not alert enough either in these matters or with regard to British interests generally. They are not sufficiently alert even in the sending of their reports and in looking after British trade. The British Consuls are not so alert in looking after British trade as the German Consuls are in looking after German trade. Our last Consular Reports are dated 1908 and are therefore two years in arrear. We are doing an enormous trade in Morocco, and it ought to be a growing trade if Morocco were under a proper and stable Government, and we have a right to demand that our Consuls should show more alacrity and put our Government in possession of their reports much earlier than they do. My complaint is not confined to the treatment of a few political offenders. It is not more than a year ago that the late pretender to the Throne in Morocco was cruelly and diabolically tortured. It is not merely that the wives and the families of these men who are similarly treated, but throughout the whole length and breadth of that Empire the prison system is a scandal and a disgrace to humanity.
I have in my hands a letter from the Foreign Office dated 22nd July, and addressed to the Secretary of the Howard Association, in which the Foreign Secretary states that a report on the prisons of Morocco has been received within the last few days from the British Chargé d'Affaires at Tangier. I want the Foreign Office to 2606 publish that Report and to let us have it at the earliest possible date. I want, in conclusion, to refer to the concluding portion of an answer to a question I put on the 14th instant. The Foreign Secretary then told me that the whole question of improving the internal administration of Morocco is one of great difficulty. We are all aware of that, but that is no reason why we should acquiesce in these diabolical atrocities and do violence to our traditions and to every principle of common humanity. I conscientiously believe that we have only to bring reasonable, friendly, and ordinary pressure to bear upon our great ally and friend among the nations, the Government of the French Republic, to make an end of these atrocities and these sufferings in this great country of North Africa. I do entreat the Government not to treat this as a party question, but to treat it as a question of humanity. It is in no sense a party question. There is no political end to gain in the matter. We maintain a collosal Navy for our national defence, and we need it for our very existence depends upon it, but is it too much to suggest that with such enormous naval resources we should not be timid and lacking in courage, and should not be afraid of standing up to a small power like Morocco, but that we should be prepared if necessary to demonstrate before Tangier. I do ask the Government to-day on the eve of our separating for a long Recess to give us some assurance of a vigorous and energetic policy.
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
I do not suppose there ever was an occasion when an accusation was brought against the Government with less foundation. The Member for Aberdeenshire (Mr. Cowan) has delivered a speech of much vehemence, but, if he had taken the most preliminary trouble to ascertain what really has happened, and if he had even read the answers given within the last day or two in this House, he would not have found it at all necessary to make that speech. The hon. Member for Blackpool (Mr. Ashley) accused the Government of being remiss. I listened with the greatest attention to his speech to find what argument he would bring forward in support of that accusation, but I could not find a single argument ecept the statement that we have not communicated with France in regard to the last grievous atrocity of the Sultan of Morocco.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I do not know how the hon. Member can say that; it is a mere assumption on his part. The hon. Member behind me (Mr. Cowan) made the same charge, and it was extremely difficult, listening to his speech, to make out what was the policy he advocated. At one moment he talked about the traditional policy and great naval power of Great Britain for repressing wrongs, if necessary, by force of arms, and in another part of his speech he said we should not go to war with Morocco but should make energetic representations to France.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
Then the hon. Member's suggestion is that we should send a naval expedition against the Sultan of Morocco. I do not think the House will accept that as practicable. I do not think the House will consider it is at all required by the necessities of the case, and when I explain the facts as to British action hon. Members will see that these charges are entirely devoid of foundation. About a year ago the Sultan of Morocco caused the most cruel punishment to be inflicted upon the followers of the Pretender to the Throne. He treated them, no doubt, in Oriental fashion, with great barbarity. Who was the person who made the most energetic remonstrances to the Sultan? It was our Consul, who talked with extreme plainness, and his action was strongly approved by the Secretary of State. Following that, there was a joint protest by the representatives of the Powers at Tangier, and the Sultan, as a result, promised better behaviour. For a time he did behave better, but then came the case of the woman who has been referred to. In spite of all denials, we are quite satisfied that this unfortunate woman was brutally tortured; there is no doubt of that. But it has been admitted by the hon. Member, and it was our Consul who succeeded in inducing the Sultan to allow her to be medically examined. We are charged with not having done the very thing we did do. We have conveyed to the French Government the information 2608 which we possess with the object of getting the French Government to join us in putting all the pressure we can on the Sultan of Morocco, in order to put an end to these abominable cruelties. The hon. Member talked in two voices about our taking warlike action. He also talked in two voices about the French Government. At one time he said the French Government would take a humane view. No one has a right to assume it will not intervene in the interests of humanity. But the hon. Member assumed it required to be stirred up to deal with this matter. I do not believe so. I believe the French Government is as keen to put an end to the tortures in Morocco as the British Government.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I wish to refer to a case which has occupied the Law Courts for the last few days, the case of an excadet for Osborne, which this afternoon came to a conclusion at which we all rejoice. I am sure no one rejoices more sincerely than the Secretary to the Admiralty. I do not speak with any knowledge or even the slightest acquaintance with any of the parties, and I do not wish to enter on the merits of the case. I am quite sure the Admiralty will do all in their power to redress the very terrible and almost irreparable wrong done to the boy on such a wrong being brought to their knowledge. That part of the case I leave entirely in their hands. Nor do I bring for one moment a charge of any conscious unfairness or bias on the part of those on whom the responsible duty of inquiring into the case was imposed. But the case does not end here. I am not quite sure that, although no conscious bias existed that those who have read the evidence are quite convinced that there has been prudence, caution, care, and deliberation in arriving at that conclusion. But I come to a much more serious matter than that. I am certain that the public at large and the parents of boys who might be sent to Osborne College and from whom the officers of the Navy will be selected, will be distrustful of certain features in the proceedings of the Admiralty with regard to this case. The serious point is this, that had it not been for the reversal of the decision of the court of first instance by the Court of Appeal, this case would never have come before the public at all, and a grievous wrong would have been done unknown to anybody. It is a case in which, I think, the Admiralty should regret that they unwisely pleaded privilege, as by such a course the indignation of, I 2609 think, a large number of the public and the parents of those at Osborne will be aroused. As I said before the First Lord came into the House, I have no hesitation whatever in leaving the interests of the particular ex-cadet in his hands, and I have no charge of any unfairness against those who conducted the inquiry; but I do ask the First Lord if he will give an assurance to this House and the public at large that the Admiralty will not again attempt to crush into obscurity and to prevent the light of day being thrown upon such cases as this, and that they will not again plead privilege and attempt to withdraw such an inquiry involving vital issues to those concerned, and anyone in a similar position—they will never again attempt to make that inquiry a closed one, and by withdrawing it from the light of day, prevent a clear hearing of such charges in a court such as has had the result which we are gratified to hear this evening.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
It appears to me that the action of the Admiralty was largely dictated by a person named Gurrin, who describes himself as a professional expert in handwriting. He was willing to go into the box on one particular day to swear that the boy had signed the postal order, and the next day the Admiralty admitted that they had made a mistake, and were satisfied that the boy had not signed it. It would be of secondary importance if this expert had not been engaged before by a Government Department. This is the same expert who was engaged in the Adolf Beck case, and who was responsible for an innocent man going to prison for something like five years, and I believe he is the same expert who was consulted in the Parnell case. I want an assurance from the First Lord that he will use his influence to see that this expert is not put forward in future. I do not think that is an unreasonable demand. It is not fair in trials of this kind that the Government should employ a person who has been shown to be so unworthy to be trusted in matters of this delicate nature.
§ Mr. PETO
I want the First Lord seriously to consider whether any step can be taken to remedy the quite unwitting grave injustice which has been done by wiping out all record of these past two years, and making the career of this cadet as absolutely clear in future, if he chooses still to pursue his profession, as if the incident had never occurred. I want the First Lord also to bear in mind that cadets 2610 for the Navy are in very large measure drawn from families which are not wealthy. It is perhaps the finest and most honourable of all professions open to a boy, and it has hitherto been open to people who have not got wealth. Our record of the trials in this case shows one thing that is perfectly clear. It is a very exceptional case, and this thing would not have been pushed through to the final vindication of the cadet's character but for the money, the energy, the perseverance, and the determination of his relatives, one of whom is a Member of this House, who, to my knowledge, has practically devoted every moment that he has not been in the House to this affair for a considerable time past. Does that not confirm what the hon. Member said—that this case will have shaken the confidence of parents and guardians in the whole system, which leaves to the absolute discretion of officials, not only the future, but the character of the boys entrusted to them? I do not believe public opinion will be satisfied unless this cadet is reinstated entirely, and I do not believe confidence in the career of a naval officer will he restored unless we have some assurance that such a case as this can never occur again—till we have full and open investigation of any allegations which may be made against a cadet.
§ Mr. W. PEEL
I wish to say a word in support of what has fallen from my hon. Friend. I need hardly say that I am not saying anything in respect of the treatment of this boy in future, because, I agree, that is a matter which obviously must be left to the generosity of the Admiralty, and I am certain that he will be treated with full generosity. I do feel very strongly, in view of the feeling which has been aroused in the country, that damage may occur in relation to those who are going to join the naval forces if those methods which have been pursued in this trial and in the preliminary stages are not altered. What do parents feel who are going to send their sons into the Navy? They feel that a case like this may be brought against a boy without anything in the nature of a trial or investigation, because it has been brought out in evidence that the investigation which took place at Osborne was simply a farce. Certainly, speaking for myself, I think it would be impossible for any parent to send his son to run the risk of being treated as that boy was treated at Osborne, unless he has some assurance 2611 from the Admiralty that cases of this kind will have so fair and full an investigation that it is out of the bounds of possibility that such things can happen as were detailed before us in the law courts. I do not agree with the charge made against the Admiralty, but I do say they have behaved throughout this matter in the most extraordinary manner. It is because I really stand up for the Admiralty that I say many people who read the records of this case will not draw the inference which I have drawn from it. What has happened? In the first place, they have put every obstacle in the way of the parents investigating it. They held an inquiry which was no inquiry at all. There was no proper evidence taken whatever, and they used all the resources of the Crown in every way to prevent this investigation taking place before the law courts. They used the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General to take every technical plea to prevent the facts coming out before the public. When they have done that, what happens? The case at last, through the action of the Court of Appeal, goes to trial, and even when the facts are coming out at the trial they do not let the case be tried out. They do not dare to take the opinion of the jury, and they were perfectly right, for I am confident of this, that the jury would have expressed itself extremely strongly on the case. I am only reciting the bare facts. It is a most remarkable thing, which will be commented upon, although I do not comment upon it for myself, that having fought this case in the way they have done they collapse utterly and at once as soon as the facts are brought before the public. As soon as the facts are brought out they withdraw absolutely and entirely from the charge made against the boy. These are the plain facts of the case, and unless the Admiralty are able to assure us that such a change will be made in the system as will prevent any treatment of this kind being ever again meted out to any boy who goes into the Navy I am certain this case will have not only a bad effect on the public mind, but will also prevent parents from sending boys into the Navy who otherwise might have been ornaments of the profession.
§ The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. McKenna)
I am sure the House will sympathise with the tone and temper of the speech in which the hon. Member for the Universities of Glasgow and Aber- 2612 deen (Sir H. Craik) approached this subject—this very painful subject. He quite rightly interpreted the view of the Admiralty when he said he was sure that they would be extremely glad to have the innocence of the boy placed upon record. They are extremely glad, and, speaking for myself, if I had perfect liberty to give a judgment which would justify my mind absolutely, it would be such a judgment as has been recorded by agreement between the parties. Let me say, in defence of both sides, that while the innocence of the boy has been established, it has also been established that upon the evidence as it was presented to the authorities at the time they acted in good faith and in a reasonable belief. That has been established after a full examination of the case, after all the witnesses have been heard, and not, as the hon. Member who has just spoken declared, before the facts had been brought out, but after an examination and cross-examination of all the witnesses of both parties, that, upon one hand, the boy was innocent, and, upon the other, that the Admiralty authorities had acted with good faith and in a reasonable belief. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to take note of the word "reasonable."
§ Mr. W. PEEL
What I understood was that the charges were not withdrawn unreservedly, but that an offer was made on the other side that the charges will he withdrawn.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Gentleman is better informed than either the Solicitor-General, who conducted for the Crown, or the Admiralty. I think it would be better before the hon. Gentleman reopens cases of this kind that he should inform himself more exactly of the facts of the case. We are most glad of the vindication of the character of the boy, but I am sure that the House will be equally glad that it has been established that the officials responsible for the conduct of Osborne College acted with good faith and with reasonable belief. A question has been raised which is of greater importance—that is, the pleading of the demurrer. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General (Sir Rufus Isaacs) is here. He will be able to answer this point, but I would remind the hon. Gentleman who raised the question that it does frequently happen that private rights have to be sacrificed for the public good, and I should not be justified in disclaiming on the part of the Admiralty all right of demurrer merely because there 2613 are circumstances in the use of the right of demurrer which operate hardly upon particular individuals. If we were not justified in using this legal plea, then the law ought to take it away from the Crown. It is not reasonable to suppose that Parliament when it left this right to the Crown at the same time contended that its use by the Crown was wholly unjustifiable upon every occasion when they exercised it. It is a much larger matter than the circumstances of any particular case. Upon the point of law my hon, and learned Friend will reply. My hon. Friend the Member for Kircaldy (Sir Henry Dalziel) raised the question of the employment of Mr. Gurrin. I think he was rather unfair to that gentleman. He had not Mr. Gurrin's evidence before him. Therefore I do not think that it is quite fair to say that while Mr. Gurrin swore that the handwriting was the handwriting of the cadet the Admiralty admitted it was not.
Sir HENRY DALZIEL
I did not say that he swore; I said he was ready to swear. Mr. Gurrin gave evidence which satisfied the Admiralty that they were justified in still continuing to consider the boy as guilty.
§ Mr. McKENNA
No; Mr. Gurrin's evidence was corroborative evidence only. It was not called in the first place at all.
§ Mr. McKENNA
The Admiralty was not bound by this evidence, and did not intend to offer Mr. Gurrin's evidence; as a matter of fact, Mr. Gurrin was not called at all; his evidence was not taken. It was only considered by the Admiralty after the original recommendation had been received. In the first instance, Mr. Gurrin's evidence was not a material part of the Admiralty case at all. Mr. Gurrin could only have expressed his view, and he certainly could not have said, "I swear that this is the handwriting of a particular person." He could only have said that in his judgment, after consideration, it was the same handwriting. Neither in this case nor in any other is there ground for thinking that Mr. Gurrin is either an unfair or untrustworthy expert. I hope it will not be understood for a moment that Mr. Gurrin, who is a well-known and skilled expert, has in the least suffered because in this case, as in many other cases, experts fail. In regard to the question put by the hon. Member for East 2614 Devizes in regard to the late cadet being taken back into the Navy, he will see, after the lapse of two years, the result of training during that period. I do not suppose that the question is likely to be raised on either side. I do not understand that he made his observations on behalf of the family, and therefore I think it probably better that any proposal of that kind should come, at any rate in the first place, from the family.
§ Mr. SCOTT DICKSON
I do not rise in any controversial spirit at all so far as this matter is concerned, but I must say that anybody must regard this case as one of a very disquieting character. I do not think any blame can be attached to the Admiralty for having consulted Mr. Gurrin, who is undoubtedly a skilled expert who is consulted by both officials and private persons. Indeed, I do not think there is any ground of complaint at all against the Government for having consulted him. But the point to which I wish to call attention—because we have not sufficient information—is that one cannot think that it is a sound method of conducting an establishment like Osborne College that a boy of thirteen years of age, accused of theft and forgery, should have his case taken and disposed of by the authorities of the institution without his parents having an opportunity of putting his case before them. I think it is out of the question that a boy of that sort should be called before those who are in charge of the educational college, and should have the matter settled and disposed of without the parents hearing anything at all about it until they get an official communication saying he had been charged with theft and forgery and found guilty, and they were to take him away. I think it is indeed a difficult position. I do not expect that the Admiralty should at this moment be able to give an answer on the point, but this is a case which ought to be considered, and if the College is to be conducted in this way undoubtedly the parents must think twice and thrice before they send their boys to Osborne. I am not dealing in the least with any controversial matter, and I am sure the First Lord and the Solicitor-General sympathise entirely with that view. On a Motion for the Adjournment on the day the case has been settled it is out of the question to discuss a matter of this importance. A matter in regard to an important educational institution connected 2615 with the Naval service of the country cannot be settled and discussed at this time. I think the matter deserves, and I have no doubt will receive, the most careful attention from those who are concerned in these matters. I rose to say, without imputing anything to anybody and accepting the suggestion that the authorities conducted this matter perfectly fairly, and although there may be a mistake, and I think we all agree they did make a mistake, the question is as to the possibility of an occurrence of this kind reoccurring. That is the view which I desire to emphasise to the House.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Rufus Isaacs)
Of course the House will understand that I cannot discuss the facts of this particular case, in which I was engaged as counsel. All I desire to say in regard to it is that for myself I am glad at the end that has been arrived at, and that there is no question of any sort or kind in reference to the boy, and also that complete vindication was given to those responsible in the first instance for believing in the statements that were made. I have risen because I understand some attack was made to the demurrer. In respect to that I want to say I found it on the record; and without discussing or going into the details or description of the meaning of a matter which is very technical and indeed so antiquated as a Petition of Right, I am anxious to explain to the House at the earliest opportunity. I have seen it stated that I argued this point of a demurrer on the instructions of the Admiralty. I desire to say that there is no foundation of any sort or kind for that statement. I had no consultation or discussion with the First Lord of the Admiralty, or with anyone who could give me instructions with reference to this matter; neither do I think, speaking here, that I should have taken instructions upon that point. That was a matter for the Law Officer of the Crown in charge of the case to determine whether or not. I thought that plea was a good one, and it remained for me to see whether any such Petition of Right could lie against the Crown in such a case as that. I am not going to discuss the merits. What I am anxious to make plain is that if there is any blame to be attributed or anything to be said with regard to the arguments on that point, or the early stage at which it was taken, certainly nothing is to be said against the First Lord of the Admiralty. The person who 2616 is responsible for it is myself, who argued it, finding it on the record as I did. I argued the point because it appeared to me that if there was a demurrer it was my duty as a Law Officer of the Crown at the earliest moment to ask the court to determine whether or not such an action could be heard in the courts. I do not think there is any precedent I know of none, and none has been quoted to me. Therefore, as a matter of public interest and also as a question of public policy, it was highly desirable that the court should pronounce upon it. Difficulties arose in the Court of Appeal as to whether certain documents could be inspected and also whether all the material was before the Court upon which t he Court of Appeal felt justified in pronouncing a final decision of the matter. The Court expressed the view that it would be better to have the facts tried, and when it expressed that view, without arguing the case, I assented to it; and thereupon the case was sent back without the Court of Appeal pronouncing upon the demurrer—that is, without determining whether the judge who decided that no such action could be brought was right or wrong—and there the matter remains at the present moment.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
Everybody must recognise that the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Solicitor-General have acted throughout in this matter with perfect propriety. The important fact is that this is not the first case within the last few years affecting the greatest employer of labour in the three Kingdoms. The Crown employs hundreds of thousands of men in the Army, the Navy, and the Civil Service, and it is a lamentable and parlous state of things if the law be that any injustice, no matter how bad, can be committed without there being any right of action in the subject. We feel this matter in Ireland in a large number of cases. What occurs to me is that this antiquated system of petition of right should be entirely abolished, and that, as in the Republic of America, there should be an official representing the Crown against whom any person having a grievance should have a right to take process in the same way as against an ordinary employer of labour. I know this doctrine is much disliked by those who have extreme views as to the status of the Crown. The King is out of our affairs entirely in all political and other matters. We treat him simply as the great ceremonial officer of the country; but the 2617 moment a soldier, a sailor, or a civil servant is ill-treated we go back to the mediaeval law, the Crown steps in with all the majesty of ancient times, and we are told "The King can do no wrong; you have no remedy." If this young man had not had behind him a powerful college, powerful friends, and considerable means, what chance would he have had? We should consider this matter from the point of view of the labourer, the soldier, and the artisan—the men who are employed in Crown service in each of the three Kingdoms While many improvements in justice have been effected from tinge to time, and many reforms of legal procedure have been suggested, it is a sad thing that until we get, so to speak, an intellectual blow from a case like this, no attempt is made to improve legal procedure in reference to that large body of unhappy people who have very few persons to speak for them, namely, the naval and military servants of the Crown. Let me tell the right hon. Gentlemen who are representing the Crown Authorities in this House the effect of it. I take the Army. I have known the very saddest cases arise in the Army in regard to young men. In this case I heard with some astonishment that the parents of this poor boy were not even acquainted with the charge against him. I have known the case of a young officer in the army, whose father was a colonel in the Army, whose ancestors for 300 years were in the British Army, whose brothers had got the V.C.; this young man on whose education thousands of pounds had been spent, behind the backs of parents of father, mother, friends, was hunted out of the army, without the knowledge of his family, on the mere ipsi dixit of some foolish officer. In any other employment in the Kingdom, or if any employer in the Kingdom was guilty of what I call misconduct, an action for wrongful dismissal would immediately follow. When you take the case of the Crown and the Services that concern you most, your Army and Navy, you leave things in that condition that you are dependent on the good sense of the law officer of the day, or it may be the First Lord of the Admiralty, or it may be the Secretary of State for War. I venture to say that if the Solicitor-General had not had the good sense to take the course he has done, and if he had not been supported by the moderation of the First Lord of the Admiralty, that this young man might have gone for ever without justice. Supposing the Crown had pushed their point up to 2618 the House of Lords, is there any doubt whatever but that it would have been held that this young man had no means of getting redress? Here we are fiddling from day to day with a thousand petty and unimportant questions. Are we content to leave hundreds of thousands of men who are in Crown employment without the ordinary rights which are due to the British subject?
So far from thinking that this case is a discredit to the Admiralty, I think the Admiralty are deserving of the highest credit, and entitled to recognition, when they saw the course the case was taking; when they saw that this boy in their opinion was entitled to redress, that they withdrew all these antiquated pleas, withdrew the case from the jury. I think they have taken an honourable and creditable course. Let us suppose they had been gentlemen with high views of the Crown Prerogative. Let us suppose the Solicitor-General and the First Lord of the Admiralty, instead of being animated by these creditable sentiments, had taken a high Crown Prerogative view—which they might well have done, and with perfect reason, following the current traditional authority—why, Sir, that young man would have been wrecked and ruined. His parents would have been discredited and disgraced, and the finger of reproach might have been pointed at him for the remainder of his natural life. The First Lord of the Admiralty made one observation with which I respectfully differ. I think it was not well considered. He said that private rights and interests have to be sacrificed for the public good. Of course it is very easy to let fall a phrase like that without seeing its full moment and importance. I think that phrase ought to be reconsidered. I think justice consists in this—and I think the whole British Constitution exists for it—that the humblest and meanest citizen may at the bar of justice and in the King's courts reckon with confidence that absolute justice will be administered. I lay down this proposition that the British sailor and the British soldier and the Irish sailor and the Irish soldier should know with confidence that if any wrong is done them redress will be open to them despit the attitude of high officials of higher authority. I think this House instead of discussing many of the minor questions that crop up from time to time might well take this matter in hand and I address myself especially to the Members of the Labour party. While 2619 trade unions are attacking manufacturers for small grievances and going into questions of wages there are undoubtedly in very many parts of the State a great many cases—I will not say of this kind—but a great many cases that need attention. Why are they not brought forward? Because there is a feeling of hopelessness upon the part of those people. They feel it is hopeless to attack this buttressed hierarchy which has set up its claims to immunity for generations. That is the instinctive feelings of all these men. This case, I trust, will lead to proper attention being given to questions deserving redress and deserving the best consideration of the Law Officers of the Crown, and I do sincerely hope that as justice has been vindicated at this late stage the Government, in order to prevent further injustice arising, will appoint some fair and competent method of trial of such questions.
§ Lord CHARLES BERESFORD
I should like, as a naval officer, to express my great satisfaction that justice has been done to the young officer who was charged in this case. I am certain that equal satisfaction is felt by everyone at the Admiralty and everyone in the whole Service and in the whole country. Such cases as this are very rare. I am quite satisfied in my own mind that the reports made in the College were made in all good faith, and on evidence which they thought was accurate, and that the matter was then referred to the Admiralty for decision. But I am inclined to find fault with the Admiralty for not assisting the parents more than they did in the investigation of the ease. The question of discipline in the Service is a very difficult question. We must be absolutely fair and absolutely just in every particular. I think when the Admiralty have a very grave charge of this character made against a young officer just beginning his career, and who would have been damned for all time, if he had been thought guilty, they should have taken some trouble, and should have been more courteous to the parents and those connected with this young man, and should not have kept them for two years, until efforts were made, owing to the fact that these people were well off, to bring the matter before the Court. I think the Admiralty could have done very much what the Court did, and could have gone much further in the matter than they did. 2620 There is another point I want to bring before the House. Thieving on a ship or in a regiment is one of the worst crimes that can happen, and for this reason: The men begin to suspect each other. You do not know what may occur. There is irritation and insecurity in barrack or on board ship if there is a thief about; so that not only has every effort to be made to catch the thief, but you cannot be too careful in getting your evidence thoroughly sifted. I do not think that the Admiralty used all the efforts they might have to sift this matter to the bottom. It is very important that not only should it be put in a Court of Law that we do not consider the charge is true, but I think some letter should be sent from the Admiralty saying they were wrong in their decision, and expressing regret so that the lad, will not go away and simply say "The Court found I was not guilty, and the Admiralty did not press it." I hope the First Lord of the Admiralty will see his way to give some kind of redress to that young man who has suffered so severely and so unjustly for a crime which he never committed.
§ Sir J. D. REES
This occasion offers a temptation for making a speech which I shall heroically resist. I will not keep the House more than a few moments. I wish to refer to the Colonial Estimates, in which it is stated in regard to the Uganda Railway that grants are made upon such terms as may be prescribed by the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury. I want to ask the Under-Secretary how this is done. Who decides what railway grants shall be allocated? I take it that it cannot be the Treasury. I presume the Colonial Office say "We prefer this railway, advance us some money." How is it that funds are available for one part of Africa, and not for another? I remember on one occasion, in my official days, finding a large sum allotted under a particular head, and when I asked why this was so, the answer was, "Oh, they always have it there." I replied that I thought that was a reason for giving it to someone else, and I was told that they always have had it, and therefore should go on having it. Why should these grants not be distributed over Africa? Why should Protectorates which have shown that they can help themselves, in which large sums have been expended by private enterprise, not have some claim for a Government bounty equal to the Protectorates of Uganda and Nigeria, 2621 which is already provided for so largely at the expense of the British taxpayer? I do not complain of these grants to Uganda. I think it is an admirable thing to make the Uganda Railway, and I quite approve of it. What I ask is why Nyassaland is not entitled to similar grants? I will not go into the details of this case because I know hon. Members want to go, but perhaps the House will forgive me for bringing up a subject which I have not had any other opportunity of mentioning.
. I beg leave to ask the Under-Secretary whether he will take the opportunity of repudiating the attacks, either explicit or veiled, which are made upon those British merchants, commercial men, and others about the world whose enterprise is profitable to the inhabitants amongst whom they invest their money. They are continually being disparaged in this House. The Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne (Mr. Wedgwood) put a question in which he spoke contemptuously of "whites" in this connection. I object very much to contemptuously describing the inhabitants of other countries as "blacks," and I have never done it in my life, but I object very much more to the contemptuous description of our fellow-countrymen and other Europeans as "whites" and "whites who rob the coloured man." I endeavoured at the time to challenge my hon. Friend, but the right hon. Gentleman put me off by saying I should settle it with the hon. Gentleman. How am I to settle it with the hon. Gentleman? The spirit is entirely a wrong one, and it is for my right hon. Friend who occupies the proud position of Colonial Under-Secretary to put down those who in this House speak contemptuously of their own flesh and blood and of Europeans generally. It is not only the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyne who does this, but it is also my right hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir Chas. Dilke), though, I confess, he rather withdrew, when I challenged him. I do ask the Under-Secretary not to give way to this kind of thing and to realise, though it may be true a merchant only gives £50 or £100 for a concession out of which he makes a lot of money, that it was worth nothing to the person from whom he got it, and that his taking this concession brings a lot of money, say, into the Pacific Islands, and is good for the Islands. Although it may appear that he did not give the commercial value, he has got to go there, to fit out an expedition and chance the loss of 2622 his capital. I do protest as loudly as I can against the manner in which our fellow-countrymen are invariably disparaged on every occasion, and I hope my right hon. Friend will take an opportunity of doing that which he abstained from doing the other day. I do not blame him, but I give him an opportunity for which, I am sure, he will be grateful.
One of my hon. and learned Friends brought forward one of those altruistic Resolutions which nobody seems to mind on one of the private Members' afternoons or evenings earlier in the Session. He asked that an extension of the continuation classes should be made, that the school age should be extended, that children should be fed in the holidays, that the size of classes should be reduced—and, in point of fact, he brought forward an omnibus Resolution which would have cost the country millions. What did the Parliamentary Secretary of the Board of Education (Mr. Trevelyan) say? He told this hon. Gentleman that he had not to fear lack of money, and that he had not to overcome Government or Treasury reluctance so much as other kinds of reluctance. If I understood the Parliamentary Secretary rightly, he said to this Gentleman who brought forward this vague, altruistic, and intensely expensive Resolution, "Go back to your friends and say, 'Come on; you can get anything you like from the Treasury and the Government, and, if you only press them, you can get as much money as you like out of them.'" I submit it is not desirable that such propositions should be met in such a spirit in a quarter which is bound by every possible consideration to take jealous care of the finances of the country. The hon. Gentleman who proposed this Resolution has been associated, I believe very honourably and very much to his credit, with Mr. Carnegie. But Mr. Carnegie's occupation in life is trying to get rid of as many millions as he can, and I submit the Secretary of the Board of Education should be occupied in trying to preserve the millions of the State, and should only part with them as reluctantly as he can. I submit that that answer was in point of fact an encouragement to extravagance. It was said, in fact, "Come along, we have no difficulty with the Treasury—no reluctance there." I was told by the hon. Gentleman, when I put a question, that my policy was so vague that he could not understand it. But it was his policy in 2623 his own words. I can only say I hope he will now say a word to discourage the extravagant applications I have brought to notice.
I am glad to see the Under-Secretary for India in his place. I listened to his very admirable speech the other day with the utmost satisfaction. Few better speeches, in my oponion, have ever been made in this House. I should be glad if the affairs of India were never debated in this House, but if they are, then I submit it is necessary there should be sufficient time for the feelings and views of the masses of the Indian people, of the multitudinous millions who inhabit that country, of the honourable and upright Civil servants who administer it, and of the commercial men who contribute to its prosperity—that their views should have an opportunity of being represented. That is impossible under the present arrangements of the House, and the result is that the views of those who only represent a miserable fraction of opinion are reported out to India and great mischief is done. These Debates are not necessary, but if they are to be allowed it surely is desirable that time should be allowed for these opinions to be heard. I have analysed the time occupied the other night. Out of seven hours, Front Bench speakers took three, the Labour Party two and a half, and in the remaining one and a half hours one speech was delivered by an hon. Gentleman opposite which occupied an hour and ten minutes. I submit that there should have been an extra day allowed for that Debate, and I hope this matter will receive the attention of the Under-Secretary. He knows how anxious I was to deal with those subjects in which the characters of my fellow Civil servants in India were cruelly aspersed—how anxious I was to deal with subjects concerning the people among whom I lived for so many years and whose language I can talk. I resisted the temptation however, and I think there was, under the circumstances, something heroic in my re- sistance. I repeat that if these matters are to be discussed, and I wish they never were, there should be time for the views of the majority, the well-affected, and those friendly to British rule and to the Indian masses, to be heard, and not only those of an insignificant Socialistic minority.
I wish to call the attention of the House and of Ministers to the fact 2624 that very insufficient time has been allotted for the full discussion of Colonial, Indian, and foreign questions. We on this side are constantly being abused in the constituencies with indifference to Imperial and Colonial interests, and it is alleged that we do not care for our great Imperial heritage. I venture humbly but firmly to point out to those on the Front Bench that they would be well advised, if possible, when the House resumes, and certainly next Session, if they allowed more time for the discussion of foreign, Colonial and Indian affairs. I shall not attempt to bring matters forward now in which I am interested, but if some hope were extended to me it would be a real solace to me during my holidays to think that I shall have an opportunity of doing so on a later occasion.
rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
I desire to draw attention to the fact that there is no representative of the Home Office in the House at the present time. I have a complaint to make on behalf of one of my Constituents who is anxious to get letters of naturalisation. I wrote several days ago about it to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I have been trying to see him to-day, and I have been unable to do so, and also the Under-Secretary, whom, I am informed, has gone away for his holidays. I cannot get any tangible reason why these letters of naturalisation should not be issued. The man has been endeavouring to obtain them for six months, and I think he ought to have them. The last day of the Session is the only opportunity a private Member has to call attention to grievances, and Ministers ought to he present to listen to them. It is the duty of private Members to bring those grievances forward, and Ministers should be here.
§ Mr. HUNT
I do not like to go for the holidays without calling the attention of the House to the question of national defence. Ministers say in their answers to questions that the Army and Navy are adequate, but it certainly does not seem to me that our national defences are in the state they ought to be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he was going to find the money for social reform by cutting down the expenses of 2625 the Army and Navy, although he put it in a more picturesque way than that. He also said we were really building against nightmares, and the result is our Army and Navy have been very seriously cut down. They certainly are not kept in anything like the strength they were in when a Unionist Government was last in power. As the Navy is really our only defence, we ought to know how it really stands in order that we may be able to judge whether the Government is doing its duty or not.
It is made clear from what the Prime Minister said that in 1912, while we shall have twenty "Dreadnoughts," Germany will have seventeen, to say nothing of what other Powers will have, and it came out the other day, and I did not hear it denied, that even the seventeen German "Dreadnoughts" could throw a greater weight of metal than our twenty. If that is the case, it makes things even more serious than we thought them before. When you get to the next year (1914), we have twenty-five to twenty-one. Here, again. comes in the great difficulty of having docks where "Dreadnoughts" can be repaired. In 1912 I understand there will be only one where a "Dreadnought" can be repaired, and that is hundreds of miles away from where fighting is likely to take place, and further it is very doubtful whether a "Dreadnought" could get into it at all. In 1913 there will only be two docks where a "Dreadnought" can be repaired, and I understand that Germany has seven clocks. Then there is the question of pre-"Dreadnoughts," which we are supposed to be dependent upon. In 1913 the Foreign Minister said the pre-"Dreadnoughts" would count for comparatively little. Then there is the question of torpedo-destroyers. It is very difficult to get a straight answer from the Admiralty on this or any other question, but, as I understand it, Germany alone has got more modern oceangoing destroyers which are suitable for being used in the North Sea than we have ourselves. If that is so, or anything like so, it seems to me that our battleships and big cruisers will not be able to stop out in the North Sea at night. Then when we come to small cruisers, I understand that we are very short. The First Lord distinctly stated that an enemy might arm its merchant vessels and turn them into commerce destroyers. It does not seem to be at all certain that the German vessels do not carry guns, and it appears that 2626 Lloyds do not object to their carrying guns and ammunition.
Then comes the question of defending the country otherwise than by the Navy. Lord Roberts told us the other day that the Indian Mutiny came upon the Army in India all of a sudden. They hardly knew it was coming at all. The same thing might very well happen again. In that case the Regular Army would have to go away. We could not keep the Regular Army here while our people were being slaughtered in India. Then we should have to rely almost entirely on the Territorial Force, 98,000 of whom are not twenty years of age, and 100,000 of whom have not passed their musketry course. That is as regards men. There are 2,400 officers who have not passed their musketry course, and some thousands of men who have never handled a military rifle at all. This is what we have to depend on. This force was to have been 313,000—that was said by the Government to be the very least on which they could depend—but Lord Esher told us the other day that we would very likely have tom be content with less men. It is now 38,000 short of what the Government said was to be the maximum. When I asked the Secretary of State for War in this House if he was still going to rely on this Force which was not up to the number which the Government said was absolutely necessary, he replied that the future strength of the Territorial Army was a matter of speculation, but that he had reason to be more hopeful than Lord Esher. It would seem that our safety from ruin is to depend on the speculation and hope of the Secretary of State for War. An enormous number of Admirals and general officers—the men who ought to know—have signed a paper saying that our position is not safe. I do not think we are acting rightly if we merely rely upon the hope of one single right hon. Gentleman, however eminent he may be. I do not think it is good enough. The right hon. Gentleman himself told us at Bristol that if we went to war with a great nation, they would be quite certain to make a raid on London. The right hon. Gentleman also admitted that the Territorial Force would be of very little use until it had six months' training. We want from 100,000 to 200,000 men of the Territorial Force to garrison the arsenals and other places. It seems to me that we shall have nothing left except the speculation and hope of the Secretary of State for War. Our fleet would necessarily be tied to our shores. In that 2627 case, what is going to happen to our food supply? Under the Declaration of London the whole of the food supply of this country is to be made contraband of war without notice, and therefore there would be very great danger that our people would starve. It will be no laughing matter then. Every man out of uniform will be shot if he is caught resisting in any way. The Germans have laid down the rule that villages and towns which resisted will be burned, and everything will be done to terrorise the inhabitants of our country and compel Britishers to work for Germans whenever they are required. The defence of the country is rather more important than many of the things which have been talked about. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had heard the speech the other day of our greatest soldier they would not be so much inclined to jeer at the idea of national defence. We have had plenty of warnings. Mr. Frederic Harrison has been preaching peace all his life, and we have had serious warnings from him. We have had warnings from the Socialists of Germany lately as well as before; and now the French papers are warning us that we are running the same danger as France did in 1869, when the warnings of the French Military Attaché at Berlin were neglected, and the despatches which he kept on writing to the French Government were found after the war hidden in the recesses of the French War Office. It seems to me that we are running the risk that any accident or misfortune may leave us even inferior at sea, and, of course, we are perfectly helpless on land if our regular Army is away. It seems to me that the present Government can neither provide the people of this country with the required work or wages, nor can they provide adequate defence to protect them from coming to conflict. With all respect I think that this question of our safety comes before everything else. I think it is time that the Leader of the Opposition took off his duds to make the question of national safety and national defence come before everything else, and Tariff Reform and Imperial Preference come next.
§ Colonel SEELY
My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery Boroughs asked me a definite question, and in reply I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the same subject, but I may say in passing that my hon. Friend 2628 who has asked me that question should represent to the Prime Minister that more time should be given to Colonial Office and Foreign affairs, may rest assured that the Prime Minister will bear that in mind. Owing, however, to the great pressure of other business he himself will realise that it is difficult to get more time to give to these matters. With regard to the practical point my hon. Friend wanted to know on what principle the Colonial Office and the Treasury allocate grants in aid from the taxes in this country for railways in the Colonies. He said he was interested in a railway in Nyassaland which received no grant in aid, The procedure is more or less as he described it. Different Colonies make applications in respect of railways, and a great many of these applications are backed by reports of their own engineers, and frequently of independent engineers, who have examined the proposal further. When the Colonial Office is satisfied that a scheme is desirable and is urgently necessary they put it before the Commissioners of the Treasury for assent. Of course, only a proportion of these applications are officially recommended, or receive sanction, because there is not enough money to go round. I think the particular case of my hon. Friend's railway, if I may so describe it, which is a most valuable line, has this drawback, that it is more or less in the air. It will be very desirable to extend it at one end or the other, either or both, but the only reason that it cannot be done is twofold—first of all, that it is not so easy to make grants out of public funds for railways in private hands, although I do not say that is a fatal objection.
§ Sir J. D. REES
That was not my proposition at all. My idea was to connect the Colony with the sea, and that the Colonial Office should consider the claim of this particular Protectorate, and see whether a connection between this British territory and the sea could be made through Portuguese territory. I was not thinking of private interests.
§ Colonel SEELY
I accept at once that my hon. Friend had no private interests in view and that he was considering the benefit of this British Colony, which he wants to see go forward. It is quite true if we extended the railway it would be of advantage to the Colony, but the difficulty is that this particular railway is in private hands, and that the expenditure would 2629 therefore be an unusual thing, though, of course, not a fatal objection. Another objection is that there are other schemes which are even more important, and as we have only a certain amount of money, we must take those schemes which are the most pressing. I am afraid I cannot add anything more definite on the subject. I am afraid I cannot prevent reference in this House to European traders as "Whites."
§ Colonel SEELY
I must say that I do not agree with my hon. Friend in regard to this, because we know that the greatest compliment that can be paid to an European trader is to call him a White man.
§ Resolved, That this House do now adjourn until Wednesday next, at Twelve of the clock: that, upon that day, the House do consider Lords Amendments to Bills of which the consideration forthwith is moved by the Government; and that Mr. Speaker, as soon as he has reported the Royal Assent to the Bills which had been agreed on by both Houses, do adjourn the House, without Question put, until Tuesday the 15th November next.
§ Adjourned at Twenty-five minutes before Seven o'clock, until Wednesday next, 3rd August, at. Twelve o'clock noon.