§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Mr. GRANT
I desire to say a few words in connection with the administration of the Colonial Office in regard to railways in British East Africa and Nyasaland. I very much regret that the Colonial Secre- 2696 tary has had to leave the House, but he has had the courtesy to give me to understand that it was not from any lack of interest in this question, or from any lack of courtesy to the House, but that he had to leave through circumstances over which he had no control. With regard to the railways in British East Africa, hon. Members will recollect that the Uganda Railway was built in the nineties at great expense, and I would like to see that important policy followed still further. Hon. Members are doubtless aware of the extraordinary development that has taken place in British East Africa since that railway was built, but I think they arc not aware that the rolling stock on that railway and the facilities of transport are, at the present moment, less than they were when the line was first opened. In face of the extraordinary development which that country has experienced, I think it must be obvious to everyone that there must be a vast amount of inconvenience caused to the settlers who, by want of rolling stock, sidings, and capacity of accommodation on the line, are unable to get their produce dealt with. There is also the question of the lake steamers, which are entirely insufficient to deal with the produce, while the ports are all full up. I am aware that at the present moment there is an order for more steamers and more rolling stock for the railway, but, as everyone acquainted with the circumstances knows, those orders are entirely inadequate to deal with the produce. Even if they had been carried out, and if the rolling stock had been furnished soon after the orders were given, they would be to-day quite inadequate to deal with the exports of the country. More rolling stock and more steamers are wanted, together with a great many more sidings. There is also the question of the ports. The lake has fallen some 6 ft., and at Port Kasumo the steamers touch 3 or 4 miles out from it, and it looks as if in a few years that port will be absolutely useless. The Government ought to see the necessity of a deep water port on the lake.
The matter is sufficiently serious from the settlers' point of view, but there is another point of view which in some respects is equally serious. Hon. Members are aware that the Germans, who have territories to the South and West of Victoria Nyanza, depend entirely on our railway to export their produce. The Germans are bitterly complaining of the inadequate facilities which are granted to them by the line. They also complain of 2697 the rates. They find that the railway is entirely inadequate to deal with the development of their own territory. They do not, however, make so much a point of the rates; what they ask is that there should be a line sufficient for their purposes. They do not want to spend their money in making a line of their own, but so inefficient do they find the existing railway that they are considering the advisability of themselves, building a line from Tabora to Mwanza, and making a junction with their main line from Daresalam to Ujiji, tapping the trade of Victoria Nyanza at some one of the ports. But they would much rather use what funds they have for the development of their country than on a railway, but so inefficient is the service of our line that they are contemplating tapping, and no doubt will tap the trade of the lake, unless the Government wakes up to its responsibilities in this matter. It must be obvious that if the Germans do what I have indicated we shall lose a great carrying trade, a trade which undoubtedly will largely increase in the future. I do hope that the Colonial Office will take some further interest in this matter, and not be so apathetic as they have been. I asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman, the Colonial Secretary, the other day with regard to this matter, and he told me that the orders were already in, and he trusted it would be possible to deal temporarily with the expansion of trade. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees), added:I am now considering what further action it is desirable and practicable to take. and I hope next year to be able to commence a considerable further expenditure fit these purposes.I am very much disappointed with that answer. All the facts were before the right hon. Gentleman. Everybody knows about them, and why should he be considering instead of determining the matter now I Why he should leave over to next year that which ought really to have been done at once, indeed, done years ago, I cannot understand. It appears to me that there is a lack of foresight, a lack of interest in this matter over which the right hon. Gentleman has supreme control. It is most deplorable, and it is very Antagonistic to the interests of our settlers that it should be so.
There is one other part of Africa, in regard to which I desire to criticise the policy of the Colonial Office in the matter of railway extension, and that is British 2698 Central Africa. There is at present a railway from Port Herald on the Shiri River to Blantyre. It is an isolated railway built by private enterprise, a railway without any beginning or any end. It does not go to the coast and it does not touch the lake; but it already pays 3 per cent., though a railway without beginning or end; it does not really tap the rich lands around Nyasa, and it is not linked with the coast. The matter of continuing that railway has been long considered, and I would urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the necessity of considering how important such a line is to the settlers. Railway extension is certainly in the interests of this country, and it ought to be pushed forward without any further delay. From Port Herald down to the Zambesi, I am happy to think that the line is being extended, and that there is a proposed line from Port Tabora on the coast of Portuguese East Africa. I understand that a company is ready to build the line from Port Beira to the Zambesi, and connect it with the sea. There is some hitch, I believe, with the Portuguese Government, but the matter has been practically settled, save with regard to some unimportant point. I asked the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to lend this powerful aid, if he could, to getting this line started. I was disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's reply in regard to the matter. I regret That answer from the Foreign Secretary very much, and I do hope he may reconsider the situation and may make sonic friendly representations to a friendly country like Portugal and impress on them the importance for our Colony that we should have direct communication with the sea. That has been foreshadowed and practically promised by our Colonial Secretary, and I do hope that the Government may, in the interests of the settlers and of the development of the country, take some further action, and that this policy, in those interests, will change to something more active.
§ Mr. MULDOON
I rise to draw the attention of the House and of the Postmaster-General to the action of the Cunard Company in abandoning that part of their contract which obliged them, in the carriage of the American mails, to call at Queenstown. I am sure the Postmaster-General did not expect that we on these benches would allow this, the only opportunity we will now have, to pass without calling attention to this rather 2699 discreditable transaction—and a transaction which has a very sinister aspect of secrecy and of surprise, and which, although it has been brewing for nearly six months past, only came to our knowledge within the last three days. Although I represent the particular Constituency which comprises Queenstown, I desire to say that, upon this occasion, I speak not for Queenstown alone, and not for Cork alone, but also for the commercial men of Dublin and Belfast, and for the commercial interests of every part of Ireland, which are menaced by the action which is now proposed to be taken. What are the facts of the case? In the year 1903 the then Postmaster-General, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), concluded a contract with the Cunard Company to which there were four parties—the Board of Admiralty, the Board of Trade, the Postmaster-General, and the Cunard Company. I may say at once that that contract was an exceedingly useful and favourable contract for the company. It increased the subsidy which the company received for the carriage of those mails from £57,000 per year to £67,000 per year, and, in addition, there was a loan made to the company of £2,600,000 for the purpose of increasing their fleet that was to be used for this service. I ask the attention of the Postmaster-General to the precise terms of the contract. This company undertook solemnly by their engagement when they signed that contract to put on two additional vessels of suitable dimensions, capacity and speed for the Queenstown service, and the same as regards Liverpool.
I may say at once that in this contract the position of Liverpool and of Queenstown is on a precisely similar footing. The obligation upon the Cunard Company to go to Queenstown and take the mails and carry them to New York is precisely the same as it is to go and deliver them. I would like to ask in this case, if the Cunard Company had said to the Postmaster-General, "We find Liverpool a very unsafe and very insecure harbour, and we do not intend to go there again"—and, let me incidentally remark, there would be a great deal more foundation for that remark than the charge of insecurity which is levelled against Queenstown—would the Postmaster-General, I ask him, allow them to run away from their solemn obligation? That is precisely what has been done in reference to Queenstown. 2700 There was a loan given to this company of £2,600,000 for the purpose of putting on two vessels that would be suitable for this service. The public have an enormous interest in this matter. It was in the public interests that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcester entered into this contract, and he gave splendid terms to the Cunard Company in order that they should give the best service possible to the public, not only of Ireland but of Great Britain also. The complaint I have to make against the Postmaster-General is that the company now have used the very position which the State has given to them practically to impose terms upon him and to absolutely flout his authority and the public interests which are concerned. The next step in this transaction was that the same company, upon the return voyage from New York, were in the habit of calling at Queenstown. They took an early opportunity of getting rid of that obligation. I may say that, from the very start, there was evidence that the visit to Queens-town on either journey was irksome and very unpopular with the Cunard Company, and there was also evidence that at various times the interests of Liverpool were opposed to the Queenstown call, and to that circumstance, I think, the-present Postmaster-General never gave sufficient attention. Once in this House an hon. Gentleman who sits on the other side actually asked that, upon the grounds of inconvenience, the Cunard Company should be relieved from calling at Queenstown at all, but the Postmaster-General,, like every other Postmaster-General, said it was an imperative and important and vital part of their contract that the call should be maintained at Queenstown.
The Cunard Company were taken in no way unawares or by surprise when they entered into that contract. They had been trading with Queenstown, the port of Queenstown, for over seventy years. They knew every detail and every particular of the accommodation which could be placed at their disposal there, and it would be absurd to pretend that they did not know of the circumstances. Not only did those four important parties enter into this solemn engagement in reference to the carriage of the American mails, but that transaction and that very agreement which was signed was ratified by this House in the Session of 1903, and ratified after a controversy which, so far as I can remember, can only be equalled in its importance and dimensions by the discus- 2701 sions which have taken place over the Marconi contract, which contract reminds me of this fact. The Postmaster-General came down to this House last Friday and asked the House to ratify the contract he had made with the Marconi Company and, as we all think, it was a wise and prudent contract and forms a monument to his wisdom. But if the Postmaster-General had said to this House when he was proposing that contract, "This is a most important contract and binds both parties for a considerable time, but I think it right to tell the House it is taking part in something like a farce, because, if the Marconi Company come in a few years' time and tell me some of these conditions are inconvenient or impossible or dangerous, I will allow them to run away from their contract." I ask the Postmaster-General to consider this question of the Queenstown route from our point of view, and our point of view distinctly is this, that this contract was made in the public interests ten years ago and ratified by tins House after not only discussion, but lengthened discussion extending over years, and the Postmaster-General as the trustee and guardian of the public interests has himself no right to run away from a contract of that kind, and when the first intimation was given to him that it was the intention of the Cunard Company to take this step he ought to have told them, in my humble judgment, that it was a contract which was entered into and ratified by those parties with the concurrence and assent of the House of Commons, and without going to the House of Commons, every part of it would have to be absolutely fulfilled.
I have said that at a very early date, 1909, the Cunard Company gave up calling into Queenstown on their return voyages from America. When they did so they raised no question whatever except one of inconvenience. It was never suggested at that time in all that controversy for one moment that the port of Queenstown was unsafe, never could be suggested, and I think I will be able to-day to explode the charge of unsafeness that is now made. It was never made or suggested at that time, but their action was put entirely on the ground of inconvenience adding unduly to the length of the journey and putting them at a disadvantage with their competitors. Let me also say these two large vessels, about which complaints are now made and which it was part of the 1903 contract should be built and should be suitable for the service comprised in that contract, had 2702 been using the Queenstown Harbour now for seven years and there never was a suggestion of any inadequate accommodation there, and there never was any complaint except one, and that one was absolutely set aside by the action of the Cork Board in representing to the Company the facts as they occurred. The excuse which is now being made for the Cunard Company in retreating from their contract was first conveyed in a letter from the general manager of the Company to the Postmaster-General, dated 19th March, 1913. I must say that that letter is one of the coolest propositions which I have ever heard. Without any reference to the obligation on the company to continue their calls to Queenstown he suggests it is to be abandoned, and the only circumstance relied upon is the so-called mishap to the Mauritania which was alleged to have occurred on the 23rd February last. When the right hon. Gentleman, the Postmaster-General, got that letter he sent an answer to the company putting them off. In my humble judgment, when he got that statement from the general manager of the Cunard Company, his answer should have been that he himself had no power to relieve them or to release them from this contract, and that the contract must he continued and that he would seek a proper remedy from any violation of that contract, and that he would ask the advice, if necessary, of the Law Officers of the Crown.
That is followed by another letter from the chairman of the Cunard Company. I do not propose to read all the correspondence, as I am sure hon. Members have seen it. That letter from the chairman was dated the 19th June, 1913, and in it he refers to an interview which he had with the Postmaster-General with reference to this subject, and he adds an additional complaint to that made in the general manager's former letter. All this took place behind the backs of those who are vitally concerned in maintaining this contract in the interests of Ireland, and in the interests also of Great Britain, because there can be no doubt that the interests of both countries are menaced by what is now proposed to be done. I must say a cooler or more audacious proposition I never read than that which was made by the chairman of the Cunard Company in this letter to which I am now referring. There is not a particle of compunction in his mind when he asks the Postmaster-General to join with him practically in a little conspiracy to get rid of 2703 the solemn obligation which he entered into with the Postmaster-General in 1903, and he informs him a decision was duly arrived at after full and careful consideration and must be regarded as absolutely final. That was as if the chairman of the company was the only real party to this agreement. Apparently the public interest is not to be considered. An unfortunate passage deals with a complaint which had not been made before—that the "Lusitania" touched ground in Queenstown Harbour. A more audacious suggestion was never made. That was one of the complaints reported to the Cork Harbour Board, and they were able to deal with it. The other complaint in reference to the "Mauretania," on the 23rd February, we never heard of until the other day, and if an inquiry were granted we might be able to show that it is as groundless as the other. What is said about the "Lusitania"? This is a letter dated the 19th June, 1913, and it refers for the first time publicly to what took place on the 29th December, 1907:—On 29th December, 1907, the 'Lusitania,' when entering Queenstown Harbour, touched ground despite the precautions which were exercised by the pilot and the captain, and had subsequently to be laid up at serious expense to the company in connection with the necessary repairs.Let me explain what took place. That incident was reported to the Cork Harbour Board, who made inquiries and sent a long reply to the secretary of the Cunard Company, stating:—Having regard to the report of the Pilot Committee, and to the conclusions arrived at by the Commissioners, they are of opinion that the pilo upon the Lusitania was guilty of a serious error of judgment if he piloted the ship as he appears to them to have then done.The reply of the company, signed by the general manager, was—"With reference to your letter of the 6th inst., concerning the 'Lusitania' touching the ground when entering Queenstown on the 29th December list, we beg to say that in consideration of the long service of the pilot, we do not wish anything else than a severe reprimand being given to him for the error which it seems clear he committed.Imagine the audacity of the chairman of the Cunard Company saying that that incident took place despite the precautions which were exercised by the pilot and the captain! It would be un-parliamentary if I properly described the action of the chairman of the company in conveying these two statements, one to the Postmaster-General, who never heard the real facts, and the other to the Cork Harbour Board, who made an inquiry into the subject. The only other incident relied upon by the company for running away from the contract is that 2704 which happened to the "Mauretania" on the 23rd February last. That incident was never reported to the Cork Harbour Board; it was never publicly referred to in any way. So far as the authorities at Cork are concerned, they only heard of it when the correspondence between the Postmaster-General and the company was published. We have had no opportunity of going into the matter, but we challenge inquiry generally into the fitness, security, and safety of Cork Harbour. We have some reason to complain. There is one incident into which we have had an opportunity of inquiring and which is found to be absolutely groundless, and there is another into which we have had no opportunity of inquiry, but which is relied upon for getting rid of this important contract. When the Postmaster-General received this complaint in reference to the "Mauretania," I submit that his first duty was to make inquiry on the spot of the Cork Harbour Board, asking to be informed of what took place, and at the same time to tell the company that he could not allow them under any circumstances to run away from the contract which had been ratified by this House. He did not take that course. On the contrary, he appears to have applied to the Board of Trade for information, and also to his nautical adviser, whoes name is not, given. Did any representative of the Board of Trade go to Cork Harbour to make inquiries? Did he take any measurements, or did he go to a chart in the office of the company or of the Board of Trade and look at figures which are years old? We do not know. That is one of our grounds of complaint. We do not know what was done. The report as it appears is most unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it gives no data upon which it is founded. It states:—In reply to your letter of the 30th inst. with reference to the request by the Cunard steamship Company that they might be relieved of the obligation for outwardbonnd packets to call at Queenstown. I am directed by the Board of Trade to state, for the information of the Postmaster-General, that they are advised that owing to the narrowness of the entrance to Queenstown Harbour, the small depth of water, and the restricted area of the anchorage, the navigation of the harbour by a vessel of the size of the 'Lusitania' or 'Mauretania' would, in many cases, be attended by considerable risk.Who was their adviser That is what we want to know. He speaks of the narrowness of the entrance. Did he go and measure it? If so, when? Was it after the recent improvements, or did he get his information from an old and out-of-date chart. We say that the statement is absolutely false. There is no harbour in the United Kingdom with the same 2705 dimensions or with the same depth of water at low tide as Queenstown Harbour now enjoys. The second advice which the right hon. Gentleman received was from his nautical adviser, who, instead of giving any recent particulars as to the entrance to Cork Harbour, repeats the mythological statement of what happened to the "Mauretania" on the 23rd February last. Was he a witness himself? Where did he get his information? Was it in the office of the Cunard Company? We have no firsthand information at all as to what took place on the 25th February. The company say that they received a serious report from their commander. That report has never been given to the public. Has the right hon. Gentleman seen it? That is the important document. What we say about all this hubbub with regard to the unsafety of Queenstown Harbour is that it is an excuse for getting rid of the inconvenience of calling at Queenstown Harbour. Ever since 1909 the company have been seeking for opportunities to give up Queenstown, and to violate their contract, as if Parliament was making a joke with them when it said that they must go to Queenstown as certainly as to Liverpool.
What is the broad, general answer to the suggestion that it is unsafe for these vessels to go into Queenstown Harbour? It is that the "Olympic" constantly uses the harbour for the purpose of taking up mails and passengers. Perhaps at this very moment at absolutely low water the "Olympic" is in Queenstown Harbour. What are the facts in reference to the "Olympic" and these other vessels? The "Olympic" has a tonnage of 45,342; the "Mauretania," 31,937; the "Lusitania," 31,550. In other words, the "Olympic," which is perhaps in Cork Harbour at this moment, has 15,000 tons more than these other vessels, which, according to the company, cannot be navigated into the harbour. The length of the "Olympic" is 852 ft.; of the "Mauretania," 762 ft.; and of the "Lusitania," 762 ft. The largest vessel goes into Queenstown Harbour even at the very lowest tide, and is quite safe, and yet it is suggested that it is so unsafe for the smaller vessels that they cannot undertake the service. The largest "Dreadnoughts" of the Navy frequently go into Cork Harbour without the slightest suggestion of danger. The right hon. Gentleman may tell me that it has always been held that the "Olympic" is a more manageable vessel than the other two. 2706 But when those two vessels were being built by the Cunard Company they were under contract to provide suitable vessels of a requisite speed for the Queenstown and Liverpool service. Since these two vessels were put upon the service there has been more difficulty and more trouble in Liverpool in one year than at Queenstown in all the period. There has been only one suggested mishap at Queenstown, into which we have not had an opportunity of inquiring, but we have read that the "Lusitania" on one occasion was driven from her moorings in the Mersey and ran ashore, and there have been many occasions in New York Harbour. Why is it only when an incident occurs at Queenstown, and there is a delay of four hours upon the occasion of an exceptional storm, that advantage is to be taken of it to drop the service altogether?
I submit that as this contract has been ratified by Parliament, no part of it should be annulled until Parliament has the result of an inquiry on the spot. The harbour authorities will be satisfied if the right hon. Gentleman says that there are two sides to the question, and that he will cause inquiry to be made by competent seafaring men—not commanders, who sometimes cannot see icebergs in the middle of the Atlantic. If a full inquiry is made into what happened on 25th February, we are convinced that we shall be able to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman that there is no reason whatever why this contract should be annulled except that it is inconvenient to the Cunard Company, but I submit that he is there to see that the contract is carried out, whether it is inconvenient to the company or not. Other points concerning the importance of this question to the commercial interests of Ireland other hon. Friends on these benches will deal with. I must, however, point out that on numerous occasions, owing principally to the intentions of Liverpool, frequent suggestions have been made that the call at Queenstown should be abandoned. From the time of the Postmaster-Generalship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire, down to the time of that of the present President of the Board of Trade and to the time of the right hon. Gentleman opposite himself, these suggestions have been put forward. They said that it was a thing that was certainly not to be entertained. In reply to a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for East Wick- 2707 low, the right hon. Gentleman wrote on 26th April, 1912:—I have taken occasion to point out to the Cunard Company that the Postmaster-General attaches great importance to the fulfilment of the contract as regards calling at Queenstown.I think it is a great pity that the right hon. Gentleman did not write in the same terms to the company when he first got the intimation that they were relying on the bogus incident of 13th February. Again I find that one of the hon. Members for Liverpool suggested in this House that the call at Queenstown should be abandoned. The right hon. Gentleman then said:—The omission of the call at Queenstown by the Cunard Packets sailing from Liverpool would, as I have previously stated, involve in the present circumstances a serious curtailment in the facilities for late posting throughout the United Kingdom.It is not merely an Irish question. It is a question, on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself, that affects every part of Great Britain as well as Ireland. A contract of the kind is not lightly to be annulled. I assure the right hon. Gentleman upon this question there is the very deepest feeling in Ireland. It is not con-find to the Southern Counties. It is as strong in Belfast and Londonderry as it is in Dublin and Cork. There will be no peace if this company is allowed lightly to run away from the solemn contract into which they have entered. On every occasion upon which there is a violation of this contract it will be challenged in this House and before the country.
§ Captain DONELAN
My hon. Friend the Member for East Cork has dealt so deeply and fully with this case so that little remains to be said. As one who is very deeply interested in this question, however, I should like to support my hon. Friend, and I should also like some specific information from the Postmaster-General on a few points which I will put to him. Seeing that the final letter from the Cunard Company is dated 19th June, why was the publication of this correspondence on a subject of such vital consequence to Ireland postponed until practically the last day of the Session? When the Cunard Company informed the Postmaster-General on 10th April last that instructions had been issued that under no conditions had the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" to enter Queenstown Harbour in the future, why did not the Postmaster-General immediately inform the Cunard Company that any such instructions would be regarded as a breach of their contract? When the Cunard Com- 2708 pany on the same date suggested to the Postmaster-General the desirability of omitting the call at Queenstown altogether, why did not the Postmaster-General inform the Cunard Company that under no circumstances must the interests' of Ireland be ignored? Did the Postmaster-General request the Cunard Company to explain why the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" should be exposed to such dangers and difficulties in navigating Queenstown Harbour, when, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, the "Olympic," which is of a much larger size, finds no difficulty whatever in navigating the-harbour, and comes in and out by night as well as by day, and in all weathers?
In face of the fact that the Cunard Company could only produce one solitary instance to support their contention, that being an occasion when a violent hurricane-was raging, why did not the Postmaster-General call for a report as to the security and accommodation of Queenstown Harbour from some independent authority? Why did the right hon. Gentleman not at once communicate with the port authorities? In view of the large amount of Irish money given to the Cunard Company to enable them to build these ships, why did not the Postmaster-General inform the Cunard Company that if they failed to fulfil their contract the extreme penalty would be enforced against them, and that negotiations would be at once entered into with the White Star Line or some other company? Taken in conjunction with the former proceedings of the Cunard Company the present proceeding is a clear attempt to wriggle out of their contract. I hope the Postmaster-General will see his way to give satisfactory answers to, these queries in order to satisfy the Irish people that some attention has been paid to their interests in this discreditable and deplorable transaction. I will also ask the Postmaster General to give some assurance that the White Star Line or some other company will be invited to tender for the contract which has been so shamefully violated by the Cunard Company. From the mere casual reference to Ireland in the correspondence which has just been published, the Postmaster-General scarcely seems to realise the incalculable loss and injury to the general community in Ireland. If they are cut off from postal communication with the United States, not only will Irish trade and commerce be heavily handicapped, but the tourist and passenger traffic will be very seriously affected. No matter what 2709 obstacles may lie in the way, I venture to think that the Postmaster-General is bound by every consideration of justice and pair play to spare no effort to avert this misfortune. At the same time, I would strongly join with my hon. Friend the Member for East Cork in urging the Postmaster-General to at least hold his hand until he has received a report from a thoroughly independent source.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
I desire to say a very few words to emphasise, so far as I can, the case made by my hon. Friends. In the first place, I would like to say that the Postmaster-General and the Government cannot too thoroughly understand the absolute correctness of the statement made by the hon. Member for East Cork that this is not a mere local matter affecting only Queenstown and Cork, but that it is a matter which, as the Postmaster-General himself in one of his letters published in the White Paper shows, affects the whole of Ireland, from Belfast to Cork and from Galway to Dublin. The whole community in Ireland is affected by this dc vision of the Cunard Company to cease calling at Queenstown for the mails. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman, when he considers this matter, will do so from the point of view that it is not a question merely affecting the port of Cork, but that it is a question affecting the whole of Ireland, and largely affecting the commercial life of the country. Anybody reading the correspondence would be amazed to find that the Cunard Company have been allowed by the Government practically to break their contract. The only threat held out to them in the letter from the Postmaster-General is that if they do not call at Cork the payment for the conveyance of the mails under the contract of July, 1903, will be reduced from £68,000 to £65,390. A reduction of a few thousand pounds in the amount paid by the Government to this company surely is no adequate punishment—if you like to call it so—for the action of the company in deliberately breaking a contract, upon the faith of which they received a subsidy—indeed, were allowed to carry the mails at all ! I think the Postmaster-General certainly would be seriously lacking in his duty in this matter—I am certain he has not the slightest desire that way; on the contrary, I think he most thoroughly realises the facts of the case—if he did not point out that action of this kind must involve something more than the reduced payment of a few thousands. What makes 2710 this matter all the worse is that of all steamship companies in the world flying the British flag the Cunard Company ought to be the last to break a contract with the Government, or to depart from any undertaking given. I, myself, some years ago, had the advantage of sitting upon a Select Committee which considered the whole question of subsidies to merchant vessels in this country. It was pointed out that Germany had extended her trade by subsidising merchant vessels. The result of this Select Committee's consideration—I think my memory serves me correctly—was that the Cunard Company, and the Cunard Company alone, were picked out of the shipping companies of the nation for special consideration by the Government.
I have not by me at this moment an exact record of the transactions of the. Cunard Company—because this matter has come out somewhat unexpectedly—but, broadly speaking, it was this: The Government advanced to the company upon exceedingly easy terms enormous sums of money to enable them to increase their fleet and to build large ships. I need hardly point out to the House that that was giving the Cunard Company very exceptional treatment. It was placing them in a position of advantage over every other commercial company in the United Kingdom. While I am not prepared here to either justify or condemn the action of the Government in regard to these subsidies to the Cunard Company—I express no opinion upon it whatever—I do say this, it having been done, it ought certainly have secured for one thing that the Cunard Company would pay the greatest. possible respect to the opinion of the Government and endeavour to do all they could to carry out faithfully the contract entered into with the Government. Yet we now find this company that has received special favour from the Government, with little or no notice, coming down and calmly saying that they will not carry out the contract, upon the faith of which they received special treatment in being allowed to carry His Majesty's mails. We all must admit that the argument of public safety, especially at sea, is an argument which cannot be ignored, and the only possible earthly justification of the Cunard Company or their friends inflicting this severe blow on the Irish public generally, and the business public in particular, is what we may call nothing else but a vague statement that some danger would be 2711 run by these ships calling above every other port at Queenstown Harbour. I heard for the first time in my whole life, and I have been associated more or less with the city of Cork and the districts surrounding it for twenty-five years, that Queenstown Harbour is unsafe for ships. I venture to say it would be the easiest thing in the world if we had time and notice to bring expert nautical opinion before this House, such as would prove that the pity is that Queenstown Harbour is not more used, and that it is one of the greatest harbours, not only in the United Kingdom, but in the whole world.
His Majesty's ships of the Fleet come into Queenstown Harbour frequently with perfect safety, and, as the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Muldoon) has told us, the largest ships afloat come into that harbour with perfect safety, and without any complaint of danger. We are told now that this harbour is dangerous, and I think it is right not to let a single moment pass without challenging that statement, and I say it is a statement entirely unwarranted. If the contract is broken, let it not be broken at the expense of this magnificent anchorage, which is well known to be one of the best in the world. The hon. Member for East Cork has already pointed out that the Cunard Company's ships, as well as the White Star Liners, have used this harbour with perfect safety for years. Yet on the strength of one mishap, this contract is to be broken. It is impossible to expect that Queenstown, any more than any other harbour, will be entirely immune or free from accidents or mishaps when the weather is very boisterous. I defy the President of the Board of Trade to say that there is a single harbour in the whole 'United Kingdom in which from time to time there is not some sort of delay or accident following upon exceptional weather, and because in Queenstown, owing to exceptionally heavy weather, there has been a delay, and, because two or three times the commanders of these vessels have thought it better, in view of a hurricane, to come straight on to England, this contract:is to be broken, and the whole business community of Ireland and America as well is to be thrown into confusion. I can only say that, whatever the result of this Debate may be, I for one will refuse to believe that the Postmaster-General is indifferent in connection with this matter, or feels anything but 2712 indignation at the action of this company in breaking this contract. We are sometimes accused in Ireland of being in the habit of raising grievances that are trivial and unreal.. Be that as it may, this is a matter of the most serious description affecting the whole country, and which the Post Office authorities in America and the public of the United States will resent as the people of Ireland.
I appeal to the Postmaster-General not to be satisfied merely with the action of the Post Office in telling this company that for breaking this contract, they are to have a few thousand pounds deducted from their payment: but I ask hint to relieve the whole public mind in Ireland by saying that the matter will be kept open and that the company will not be allowed to break its contract and that a full and fair inquiry will have to be held into these statements as to the dangerous condition of Queenstown Harbour—statements which I characterise as untrue and scandalously unfair. I ask the Postmaster-General to assure us that this great injustice will not be done to the people of Ireland, and that his great Department, one of the most useful and respected in the State, will not allow these flimsy pretexts to be availed of by this company or any other company, but that contracts solemnly and carefully entered into by the Government and ratified by this House, for which large sums of money are paid must be kept by the Cunard Company or any other company. I think it is a most unfortunate thing that this correspondence has only been put into our hands at a very late hour. I dare say it was done as soon as possible, but it is to say the least of it an unfortunate thing that at the very last expiring moments of this Session, we should have these documents given to us when there is really little time to have the matter adequately discussed. But such is my opinion of the fairness of the Postmaster-General that I believe he will give us some assurances which will go far to prove that he sympathises, as he must do, with the indignation on this particular question in Ireland—the action of the Cunard Company.
§ Mr. JOYCE
I desire to put before the Postmaster-General another phase of this matter. The Cunard Company, to my mind, in the most audacious manner, have made charges against the Port of Queenstown that were never heard of until the Cunard Company thought it well to try and get out of their agreement with the 2713 Government. Let me put this to the Postmaster-General. I think I know something of the harbour of Queenstown, and I think I know something of some of the principal harbours in the United Kingdom. I have seen a hundred large ships, from 1,000 to 3,000 tons, at anchor in the Port of Queenstown at one time. Does the Postmaster-General think that the "Mauretania" or the "Lusitania" will take up as much room as a hundred ships? Does not that phase of the question give the lie direct to the charge made by the Cunard Company as to Queenstown being dangerous to these steamers? I have seen that not once, but scores of times. I have seen a score of Her Majesty's ships, and His Majesty's ships in later days, including the largest ships of war in the world, steam into Queenstown three, four, five and six abreast at all stages of the tide. Does the Postmaster-General think that the "Mauretania" or the "Lusitania" will take up more room than two or three ships of His Majesty's Fleet? I confess I was amazed, on reading the correspondence that passed between the Postmaster-General and the Cunard Company, and I was still more amazed to see the statement made by some nautical adviser to the Board of Trade backing up the statement made by the Cunard Company. Let me call attention to the Cunard Company's dealings in other directions. I suppose the Postmaster-General knows that the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" come into Fishguard Harbour now and again. I have looked over Fishguard Harbour; it is a small, artificial harbour that is certainly most unsafe, to my mind as a seaman, and I am only speaking now as a seaman, for ships of that kind to come into. The Postmaster-General must be aware that time and time again, in certain stages of the weather, these ships dare not approach Fishguard, and did he ever hear word from the Cunard Company, or the Post Office or anybody else, to say that owing to the danger to their ships coming into Fishguard Harbour they would not call there again?
Is the Postmaster-General aware that Queenstown is a safer harbour than Liverpool? I will stake my reputation as a sailor, and I am not pretending to be anything else, that Queenstown Harbour is more easy to approach and less difficult to attain and that it has better anchorage than the great port of Liverpool, and I am not hurting Liverpool in the least by making that statement. I have seen some 2714 of those large steamers in Liverpool surrounded by tugs to keep them in safety in bad weather, but never a word from the Cunard Company or any other Company that they would prevent their ships going into Liverpool; and, while the bone and sinew of the Irish nation were flying from our shore, there was not a word from the Cunard Company about not sending their ships into Queenstown to take away the young men and women from Ireland. I think the Postmaster-General and his Office have been too lenient with this company. Why did not the Postmaster-General put down his foot and say, "I will not allow you to get out of that contract. You entered into this contract with all this knowledge, and you knew the class of ships you were building"? They knew, and they know now, that Queenstown is as safe a harbour as there is in the world. Now as to what occurred on the 23rd of February last. On the 23rd February it was blowing a terrific gale of wind. The "Mauretania" got into Queenstown. I think the commander of' that ship should have been very glad to have got into a safe anchorage even with such a ship as that during such a terrific gale of wind. The charge is now made by the company that she was delayed four hours because, when she came to anchor with the tide running one way and the wind blowing in the opposite direction, she had to wait until flood tide in order that her bow would be brought abreast the harbour and she could steam out. The delay was four hours. How many times before was this ship and other ships delayed four hours, and fourteen hours, in Liverpool? It is little wonder that men who do know something about ships and harbours and sea matters generally laugh sometimes when they see documents of the description of those I have read that passed between the Cunard Company and the Post Office. The commander sent in a report to his company saying that Queenstown is unsafe. I consider that the commander of that steamer would never-have sent in that report off his own bat, so to speak, unless he got a quiet word. to damage Queenstown as far as he possibly could. But did anything happen at Queenstown? The vessel came to anchor; there was a terrific gale of wind; she rode safely at her anchorage and never touched" the ground. What more do they want? I think the Cunard Company should have been very glad, considering the bad weather, that 2715 their vessel was safely at anchor in Queenstown, and that there was only a delay of two or three hours. The Cunard Company have been trying to get out of their responsibilities so far as Ireland is concerned, for some reason or other, for several years past. My hon. Friend the Member for East Clare (Mr. William Redmond) mentioned the shipping subsidies. I was also a member of the Committee to which he referred, and we sat for two years and went into the whole question of shipping subsidies, and we took an enormous amount of evidence. We found that the mercantile marine of this country was so great, amounting, I think, to 15,000,000 tons, that generally it could not be subsidised, and the amount of money required to do this would be so large that it could not be found. We do know, however, that some of these great companies, in the face of our report, have been subsidised since, and they receive very large sums of money, and in many cases they carry out their contract in a proper spirit and run the mails all over the world. Some of the mail ships have to go into dangerous harbours in the East along the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, and in Australia, and it remains for the Cunard Company to try and get out of their contract with the Government to allow their ships to enter Queenstown. When the mails can be shipped outside the harbour the Irish people are quite satisfied that this should be done, but when the weather is so bad that this cannot be done, there is a splendid harbour at Queenstown easy of approach, able to accommodate the largest ship afloat. The Postmaster-General must possess the general knowledge that Queenstown is a harbour easy of approach with safe anchorage, and able to accommodate the largest ship in the world, and we ask the right hon. Gentleman to put his foot down and not allow this company to ride roughshod over the Post Office and the interests of the Irish people. If they do not do this I hope the right hon. Gentleman will penalise them to the full extent of his power and force them to carry out their contract.
§ Sir THOMAS ESMONDE
This is not. really a question of Queenstown Harbour, but of the entire interests of commercial Ireland. It is a question of the interests of all the Irish railways and Irish exporters, and it is a question of enormous importance to the general commercial body all over Ireland, North and South. I remember when this contract 2716 was being made. I recollect at first it was suggested that Queenstown should not be made a port of call, and every single Irish Member then rose and protested that they would never allow this thing to be done. At that time the great majority of hon. Members of the House would not entertain for a moment the idea of permitting the Cunard steamers not to call at Queenstown, and they considered that this was in the interests of the Post Office as well as the general community. I think it is extraordinary that this astounding proposal should be made on the last day of the Session. Goodness knows the question is important enough, and everybody in Ireland is sufficiently interested to expect that a question of this sort ought not to be decided without due notice, full investigation and deliberation, and with full regard to all the very great interests concerned. I think that the least thing the Postmaster-General could do, seeing the conditions under which this contract was originally entered into, the great interests at stake and the enormous concern Ireland has in this question, is to insist upon the contract standing at least until such times as we can properly and adequately discuss the whole question in the House of Commons. The settling of such an important question as this on the last day of the Session is something which hon. Members representing Ireland cannot tolerate for a single moment.
My hon. Friend (Mr. Joyce), in his interesting and breezy speech, spoke of Queenstown. Harbour from a nautical point of view. I am not a sailor, and I cannot speak of the question from the navigator's standpoint, but I have seen a great many harbours in many parts of the world under various conditions, and 1 have been in and out of Queenstown Harbour many times in all kinds of weather. I want to know what is the matter with Queenstown? Who would think of saying that large ships were not to come into Sydney Harbour, or Simon's Bay, or Halifax In my humble opinion Queenstown Harbour is just as good as the best of them. It has enormous ground inside, it is easy of approach, and possesses good anchorage. I know there is some difficulty when there are fogs, but that difficulty applies to every harbour in the world, and Queenstown will rank with the very best of them. We have had the largest British ship in the world in Queenstown Harbour at low water per- 2717 fectly happy, discharging her passengers and embarking her mails, and I think the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" can go there equally well. It is quite easy for the mails to be taken on board outside, and I again ask the Postmaster-General to consider the advisability of insisting on this contract being kept until such time as we are able properly and fully to discuss the matter. With regard to Liverpool, I have been in and out of that harbour under all sorts of conditions—in liners, tramp steamers, and all kinds of ships—and there is no comparison at all between Liverpool and Queenstown. Liverpool is an extremely difficult place to get into, and it cannot be compared in this respect with -Queenstown. I do not wish to disparage Liverpool, because it is a wonderful place, but I would like to submit this general consideration, and it is that to my mind both Liverpool and Queenstown are in the same boat, and if the Cunard Company succeed in getting out of their obligation to call at Queenstown they will not be long before they stop sending their ships to Liverpool. Therefore, their interests are bound up with us in this matter, and I ask the Postmaster-General not to allow this breach of the contract until everybody interested in the question has had -a full opportunity of being heard.
§ Mr. FIELD
As the Member for Dublin, I would like to point out that the Chamber of Commerce in Dublin has always opposed any idea that steamships should cease to call at Queenstown. If the American mails do not call at Queenstown it will undoubtedly delay an enormous mass of commercial correspondence in this country discharged at Chester for Lancashire and Yorkshire—in fact, it would upset the whole arrangements made for the commercial correspondence for England and Ireland. This is not alone an Irish question, but it is also an English question. As a member of the Chamber of Commerce in Dublin, I know that when this question was agitated before we had -correspondence with all the great commercial centres in Lancashire and Yorkshire asking the Irish Members as a body to oppose any change by which the mail steamers would not be allowed to call at Queenstown. As one in touch with the commercial interests of Dublin, I protest most vehemently and strongly against any change being made in the present arrangements. I think it is an extraordinary thing that a matter of this kind should be brought up on the last day of the 2718 Session. This appears to be a kind of endeavour to boycott Ireland by the great steamship companies. I have studied the history of Ireland, and I know that all the great commercial shipping companies in England have endeavoured as far as possible to boycott Irish trade and commerce, and this is the latest attempt, which I admit has been very carefully and skilfully engineered. This correspondence has only been brought before the House just before we are going to prorogue, and the matter has been kept secret from the Irish Members, public opinion has not been aroused, and the whole thing is in a state of chaos. I rather think that the Postmaster-General has been frightened by the Cunard Company. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will listen to our representations in his own interests. I have no private interest in this matter, and we are speaking in the public interests, and in the interests of the commercial people both of Great Britain and Ireland, and I hope the reply of the Postmaster-General will be satisfactory to us all.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel)
No doubt hon. Members who have spoken represent a feeling which is widespread in Ireland, which is not limited to Queenstown, and which, I am afraid, will increase as public opinion in Ireland becomes more fully acquainted with the facts. It is impossible for me to deny that the step which has been taken by this company must necessarily be injurious to the interests of Queens-town, and must also cause no small inconvenience to commercial men throughout Ireland, whose mail postings must be earlier in consequence for America than they have been in the past. It is not the case, however, as suggested by the hon. Member who has just spoken that in England and Scotland the mails will be injuriously affected, because the time of sailing from Liverpool is being put to a later hour so as to render the time of posting in London, Scotland, and indeed, all parts of this island the same as previously. So far as Ireland is concerned, the time of posting in Belfast will have to be seven and a half hours earlier, and in the South of Ireland no less than a day earlier. In these circumstances, it certainly would not be the convenience of the Cunard Company which would induce me to give any kind of acquiescence in their proposal. Hon. Members have already quoted speeches of mine on previous occasions to 2719 the effect that I attach the greatest importance to the calling of the Cunard packets at Queenstown, and that I think it a most desirable thing that calling should be maintained. Clearly, the company are bound by the terms of their contract to call at Queenstown for the embarkation of the mails. The consideration, however, which is now raised is one of the safety of the ships. The Cunard Company wrote to me a letter on 19th July, summarising previous correspondence, in which they said this:—When the existing mail contract was concluded between the Postmaster-General and the Cunard Company in 1903, the company did not realise that the great increase of length of the Lusitania' and 'Mauretania' (790 feet), as compared with the largest steamers of which the company had experience at that time (' Campania' and Lucania,' 525 feet) would affect the risk of entering the Port of Queenstown in the way which experience has now proved to be the case. On 29th December, 1907, the 'Lusitania' when entering Queenstown Harbour to embark the mails, touched the ground, despite the precautions which were exercised by the pilot and captain, and had subsequently to be laid up at serious expense to the company in connection with the necessary repairs.
Mr. WILLIAM REDMOND
May I ask whether it is not the fact that if it is not properly conducted in coming to port, any ship can be put aground in any port in the world?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am not merely acting on the allegations of the company. The letter goes on to say:—On the morning of 23rd February, 1913, the 'Mauretania' arrived at. Queenstown and was obliged to enter the harbour as a gale from the S.S.E. made it impossible to work outside. After the vessel had anchored inside the harbour and the mails had been embarked, it was found that the weather was so severe that the ship could not leave the harbour until the flood title hail swung her head to the southward. In the meantime, owing to the strong wind on the one side and the ebb tide on the other, the vessel lay athwart the tide with her anchor cable strained at right angles. The precarious position in which the vessel was situated may be judged from the fact that she was drawing thirty-five feet, while the depth of water fore and aft was only about thirty-eight feet. If the anchor had dragged, or if the cable had parted, the damage incurred would have put the vessel out of commission for a long period. On the return of the vessel to Liverpool the captain reported so seriously with regard to this accident and the risks which must always be run when the Lusitania or' Mauretania' enter Queenstown Harbour in bad weather, that the Board decided,"—These are the words to which I invite attention:—after consulting their nautical experts, that these two steamers could not be allowed to enter Queenstown Harbour again when the weather was such that the mails could not he taken on board in the outer roads. This decision was only arrived at after very full and careful consideration and must be regarded as absolutely final.I did not accept the opinion of the company on this matter. I went to the nautical authorities open to me to get their opinion as to the validity of the company's contentions. I first wrote to the Board of 2720 Trade, who referred the matter to their' Marine Department, and replied, on April 4th, as follows:—They are advised that, owing to the narrowness of the entrance to Queenstown Harbour, the small depth of water, and the restricted area of anchorage, the navigation of the harbour by a vessel of the size of the steamship `Lusitania' or the steamship Mauretania would in many cases be attended by considerable risk.The letter proceeds:—Having regard, therefore, to these navigational considerations, the Board are of opinion that the Cunard: Steamship Company's representations are well founded, so far as vessels of the size of the steamship 'Lusitania' and steamship 'Mauretania' are concerned.I also referred the matter to Captain Foakes, lately of the Royal Navy and now employed by the Post Office as nautical adviser, for his opinion, and it was as. follows:—Although Queenstown Harbour may be described as one of the most spacious and secure harbours in the British Islands, the effective area of deep water available as au anchorage for large vessels of heavy draught is considerably restricted. Owing to the great length and draught of water of the Insitania and Mauretania.' it is not only hazardous, even in fine weather, for them to-proceed into the harbour at any time near low water, but it is also almost impossible to select a billet in which they can swing clear of shallow water at single anchor.These difficulties would, of course, be greatly increased during a gale, and I ask hon. Members to remember this:—It is only in heavy weather that the packets cannot work from t he tender outside the harbour.Then he refers to the incident of 23rd February, and concludes:—Her position was very critical, and, in the circumstances, it appears that Queenstown Harbour is unsuitable for the accommodation of such large vessels as the Lusitania' and 'Mauretania.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I cannot say what steps the nautical adviser took He was chosen from the Admiralty as a man highly competent in his profession. I, of course, am not an expert in these matters. I make no pretence to be an expert. I can only go to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade and to the technical adviser of the Post Office, and I can do no other than accept the opinions they lay before me. Within two months from now the "Aquitania" will come into the service of the Cunard Company, and the "Aquitania" will be even longer than the "Lusitania" or "Mauretania." These two vessels have a length of 790 feet., and the "Aquitania" will have a length of no less than 900 feet. Therefore, whatever difficulties may arise at present, they will be greatly increased when one week in three the voyage is conducted by this large new ship. It is 2721 suggested that the "Olympic" finds her way into the harbour and out again, and it is said that she is now in the harbour. At the present time, of course, there is fine weather. The Cunard ships have no difficulty in going in and out the harbour in fine weather, but the mails, as a matter of fact, are in fine weather embarked outside the harbour. The "Olympic," I am advised, is a much more manageable ship than these other vessels, because she has reciprocating engines, and for other technical reasons into which I need not enter. She is, as a matter of fact, a more manageable ship and easier to turn than these other vessels.
The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Joyce) mentioned Fishguard Harbour and spoke of the absurdity of the company's contention when Queenstown Harbour is much safer than Fishguard Harbour. The cases, however, are entirely different. When these big vessels find it dangerous to enter they pass Fishguard Harbour by and do not enter at all. They do not attempt the dangers of navigation, and the mails have to pass Fishguard. That is not a great matter, because the mails are disembarked two hours later at Liverpool. The vessels are on their homeward voyage, and it is only a question of a few hours whether the mails are disembarked at Fishguard or at. Liverpool. If, however, the mails arc not taken on board at Queenstown on the outward voyage, they are left until they can be taken by another vessel in the following week. What course ought to be taken by the Post Office in the presence of these circumstances? It has been suggested that, instead of accepting the contentions of the Cunard Company, I should at all events hold up the matter until inquiry is made and take no action of any sort. What. would be the consequences? The company some months ago formally and officially gave me notice that these two ships will not enter Queenstown Harbour in bad weather. Of course, the risk of bad weather during the summer months is small, but there will come occasions in September, October, and November when the weather is bad and when the mails cannot be taken on board outside the harbour. What will happen then? I have been told as Postmaster-General by the contracting company that on account of the dangers of navigation their ships will not enter the harbour when bad weather occurs, and, if I take no action, whenever bad weather occurs, as it cer- 2722 tainly will occur later in the year, the whole of the American mails from England, Scotland, and Ireland would be left there on the quay at Queenstown and the ship will proceed on her way to New York. What would the commercial community of this country and of Ireland say with regard to that? The mails would all be held over until the Wednesday in the following week, and there would be a very considerable delay. Business would be disorganised and the commercial community throughout the whole of the country would blame the Post Office, because, having had clear notice from the company as to what would occur, they took no steps.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Could not the right hon. Gentleman, as the company have given notice that they will violate the contract, at once ask for tenders for a new contract?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am coming now to the various alternatives. I have dealt first with the one suggested in this Debate by several hon. Members. An hon. Member below the Gangway asks, "Is not that a hypothesis. No, it is not a hypothesis. It is a certainty, because every year it has been found impracticable in the winter months for the ships to take on the mails outside the harbour, and they have been obliged to embark the mails. within the harbour.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Certainly, I have had notice, which they declared to be definite and final, that they will not enter the harbour. Therefore, I think it is perfectly clear that it is impossible for me as Postmaster-General, responsible to see that this most important mail shall go to its destination in the United States and Canada at the due time, to run what is not merely a risk, but a certainty, that some time during the winter months of this very year the whole of the American mail will be left on the quay at Queenstown.
§ Mr. MULDOON
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that there is no line in the contract to give notice to bring any part of it to an end?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
I am coming to these points one by one. I am dealing with the suggestions that have been made.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
The company are perfectly willing to embark the mails outside Queenstown Harbour, but they say they will not enter the harbour in bad weather.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
When the navigating officer, the captain responsible for the safety of the ship, declares that it is dangerous to do so.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
Yes, that is the position of the company. It is not a question whether I accept that position or not. The company have made that declaration, and, in view of that declaration, I have to consider what course I can pursue.
Captain DON ELAN
Have not the company refused to allow these ships to enter Queenstown Harbour under all conditions of weather?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
No, it is not necessary for them to enter the harbour in all conditions of weather, because in fine weather the mails are embarked outside the harbour, and the company are perfectly willing in fine weather to continue to embark them outside the harbour. We cannot accept an arrangement of that sort, because it would mean that whenever the weather turned out to be bad on that particular day the mails would be left behind. Therefore, dealing one by one with the various suggestions that have been made, I desire to impress upon the House that one course at any rate is impossible for me to take, and that is to do nothing and merely to say I will have an inquiry. To say that the mails shall be sent to Queenstown as hitherto would thereby expose the whole commercial community of this country, certainly on one, two, or three, or more occasions this winter, to the inconvenience of having the whole American mails left behind by the Cunard vessel. The second suggestion is that I might take proceedings against the company for 2724 breach of contract. Of course, it might be open for me to do that. The relevant clause of the contract provides that the company, among other obligations, shall embark the mails from Queenstown, and if they fail to do so shall for any such default, unless it arises wholly or partly from causes beyond the control of the company, have deducted from the annual payment to the company such sum as shall be agreed upon between the Postmaster-General and the company, or, failing agreement, shall be fixed by an arbitrator. The company are prepared to abide by that. They say, "If you desire us to do so, we will take the mails on board outside the harbour in good weather, but whenever the weather is bad we shall be obliged to leave the mails at Queenstown and proceed to New York. Then you can proceed against us for each such occasion with a view to obtaining a deduction, by arbitration, in respect of the value of the service which has not been performed." There are two objections to my taking that course. One is that it would involve the uncertainty, which I have already dwelt upon, namely, that while the company would carry the mails whenever the weather was fine and embark them outside the harbour, whenever the weather was bad the mails would be left. here till the following Wednesday. The commercial community would say that the fact that I may be able to obtain a penalty from the company is no compensation to them for having the whole mail delayed from Saturday till Wednesday.
Secondly, I am advised by my legal advisers—I am not stating a final conclusion—that it is doubtful—or, at any rate, it is arguable — that I might obtain no deduction at all, on the ground that the leaving of the mail behind was not due to any default on the part of the company. If it is due to default on their part, then I could get a deduction, but if it is due to stress of weather or dangers of navigation, dangers the reality of which are endorsed by the opinion of the Board of Trade and by the nautical advisers of the Post Office, then it might be argued that the fault was not due to them, but to natural circumstances, such as stress of weather or the condition of the harbour, and it would be doubtful whether, in fact, I could get any monetary compensation for the undoubted breach of the contract. But neither of these courses I have mentioned is really practicable, however, prima facie, they might seem to be desirable. 2725 The third course is to terminate the contract and ask for fresh tenders. The company would be only too glad if that course were adopted. They have given me notice they are perfectly 'willing at any time to terminate the contract, and, therefore, I have to consider whether the termination of the contract would be more to the advantage of the company than of the Post Office. If it should be more to the advantage of the company, I should not be inflicting on them a penalty, but I should be releasing them from their obligation. The contract in the ordinary course would run on to the year 1927. The company cannot terminate it. I can terminate it for persistent breach of contract. There is no reason to doubt that. I have not taken legal advice, but I have no doubt I could terminate it on the ground that the omission of the Queenstown call was a persistent breach. The company has written me pointing out that -when the remuneration was fixed at £68,000 a year—
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
No; this is a matter of finance. They have pointed out to me that the number of bags of mail in 1906, when the contract was made, was 87,000. It is now 141,000, largely owing to the reduction of the rate of postage from 2A. to id., which was not contemplated when the contract was entered into, and they have received no additional remuneration in respect of the fact that the number of bags of mails have thus increased. The number of parcels post packages has increased from 1,500 to 6,500—more than fourfold—per year. I am comparing the totals for 1912 with those for 1906, and the company still receives the sum of £68,000 which they received six years ago, when they carried little more than half the present number of bags. Take their service, on the other hand, with the United States Post Office for the return or eastward trip. The number of sacks of mails carried by them was 34,000 in 1906, and it is 88,000 now. The United States Post Office has no contract with the Cunard Company. It pays them under the Postal Union rates according to the mass of mails carried. The payment to the Cunard Company by the American Post Office has increased from £30,000 six years ago to £73,000 now, while we are paying the 'Cunard Company £68,000 for carrying 141,000 bags of mail, the United States Post Office, which 2726 has no contract, is paying them £73,000, or £5,000 more, for 88,000 bags of mail, or only about two-thirds of what they carry for us. Therefore, in view of these circumstances, I have to consider very carefully whether the Post Office would not be losing more than it gained if it terminated this contract and asked for fresh tenders.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
But I should have to make sure that any other company would call at Queenstown. That would have to be made a condition of the contract, and, as the Cunard Company would not tender under those circumstances, the competition with other companies which have ships capable of carrying mails at anything like the speed made by the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" would probably not be very large. All these circumstances have to be taken into account, and the matter cannot be lightly dismissed. The hon. Member for East Wicklow complains that the Papers have only been laid towards the very end of the Session. He said the final letter of the company was dated 19th June. But, after the receipt of that letter, I had to go into very important legal considerations. I had to take the advice of the Law Officers, and I had to consult my colleagues, because the matter is one of very great importance not only to Ireland, but to the whole country. I was only in a position, therefore, to send my letter in reply on the 8th August, and still the correspondence is not complete, because the company's reply has not reached me. But being anxious that Papers should be laid before the end of the Session, I published the correspondence in an incomplete form, in time to have this discussion which has taken place to-day. If I had held back the correspondence and only made this announcement after the House had risen, then I think hon. Members would have had some cause for complaint. I deliberately did not do that. I took care the Papers should be laid before the House rose, in order that there might be an opportunity for hon. Members to voice the complaints which I felt certain would be made heard through the representatives of the Irish people. If hon. Members opposite have any practical suggestion to make, I shall be most grateful to them, and will give it my most sympathetic consideration, for I am wholly at one with them in thinking that serious 2727 injury is being done to the Port of Queenstown and serious inconvenience imposed on the commercial community in Ireland. I am entirely at one with them in that, and I am most reluctant to acquiesce in any degree in the omission of the Queenstown call. I have resisted it on previous occasions, and should resist it now if I had any weapon with which I could combat it. But in view of the opinions I. have received from my nautical advisers, and from the Board of Trade, I cannot dispute the contention that risk is inevitable in taking the ship in, and I have unfortunately no reason to think that to terminate the contract would be other than to meet the desires of the Cunard Company.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I only desire to say a few words in continuation of this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman said he has published these Papers at this time in order that we may have an opportunity of voicing our complaint. It is not much gratification to us to have an opportunity of voicing our complaint if the deed is done. The complaint I have against the right hon. Gentleman is that when this question was raised last April by the Cunard Company he did not at once take us into his confidence. I do not think it was fair for him to carry on these investigations with the Cunard Company during those months behind the backs of the local harbour authority and of the Parliamentary representatives of the country. I think we should have been taken into consultation, and should have had an opportunity of laying our views and our expert report before the right hon. Gentleman before he came to any decision in the matter. However, the right hon. Gentleman ended his speech by a suggestion or invitation which seemed to me to hold out some promise of a way out of the difficulty. He said, as indeed we knew, that he was personally most averse to agreeing to any variation of the contract which would he injurious to Queenstown or to Ireland. He thinks he is coerced by the report of his nautical advisers, but he has not yet had an opportunity of consultation with the local harbour authority; he does not yet know what proposals they may be able to make to him for further improvements in the harbour, if such are necessary, and he does not know what further independent nautical testimony may be put before him. I submit that he has only heard one side of the case, and 2728 for him to come to a final decision under these circumstances would be I think he, as a fair-minded -man, will admit a most unfair proceeding. He said if the objectors to the new arrangement had any practical proposal to put forward, he would be delighted to consider it. I have a suggestion to make to him. He has not yet come to a final and definite decision upon this matter, and I suggest he should not do so until a local inquiry had been held, until the local harbour hoard had been consulted, and until they are able to present him with a report from nautical experts, such as they- can easily obtain, on the alleged dangers of the Queenstown Harbour. Let the right hon. Gentleman make a limit of time within which the matter will be held up, and if within that limit we are not able to show him that the danger is an imaginary danger, then there will be reason for him saying, "I cannot hold the matter up indefinitely." But I submit he ought to hold it up for a sufficient time to enable the local authorities to take counsel and put a report before him. That is a- most moderate request. We have been kept in the dark up to the very last moment. We are now at the end of the Session, and, if things are left as they 'are at this moment, the matter will be decided without any opportunity for the local people to explain their views or to put practical proposals before the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
May I ask the hon. Member to tell me what he thinks would happen if a storm were to take place next week or the week after?
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
That has not happened during all the years the contract has been in existence, but if, unfortunately, it should happen, I think that the interests which would be damaged by the-delay and the loss of a day or two would not be comparable -with the injury which would be done if, without full consultation and without full knowledge, the right hon. Gentleman comes to a definite decision upon this matter now. I will not go into the question of renouncing the contract. I think that might very properly be done. I confine myself to what I regard as a practical proposal in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation. Will he hold up this matter for a specific and definite decision until he has heard the other side t Is it fair for him to come to this decision behind the back of the local authority, without giving any opportunity to those 2729 who contend that Queenstown Harbour is safe? Will he hold up this matter long enough to enable the local authorities to hold an inquiry and to submit testimony to him from the nautical point of view in contravention of the view of this defaulting company?
§ Mr. J. HOGGE rose—
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Will not the right hon. Gentleman give some answer to my question, as I presume the hon. Member is going to another subject?
§ Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL
By the leave of the House, I would say that I have not given any formal assent to the course taken by the company. I have abstained from doing so, and, as at present advised, I am not proposing to give any formal assent. But I have to provide against the eventualities to which I have referred. The company, having definitely stated that their ships will not in future enter the harbour, the mails will, on the next occasion of bad weather, be left behind, not for a day or two, but from Saturday till the following Wednesday. While the matter can no doubt be reviewed subsequently if any suggestion is made, I must now provide against that very fact as Postmaster-General charged with the responsibility of securing the proper transport of the mails, and I must provide some steps to secure that it will not happen.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that once the mails have been taken from Queenstown, the case will be prejudiced, and it will be very much more difficult to get them back. Cannot the inquiry I have suggested be made before any such arrangement is entered into?
§ Mr. HOGGE
I wish to deal with one topic in connection with the administration of prisons in Scotland. I fully recognise it is almost a crime to deliver a speech at this period of the Session, and I shall attempt to mitigate it by being as brief as possible. This is the only opportunity which has occurred this Session—indeed, for a great number of Sessions—of raising a point which involves the work, wages and conditions of the staff of men in Scotland connected with our prisons. On the last occasion when this matter was 2730 raised, my hon. Friend the Member for the Bridgeton Division (Mr. MacCallum Scott) and my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Mr. Watt) put a series of questions to the Secretary for Scotland with which he was unable to deal, because of the conditions that exist at Question Time. The points I desire to put are three in number. The first concerns the head wardefs in Scottish prisons. 1 ask my right hon. Friend whether there is going to be any increase in salary and in status afforded to them as a result of the representations which have been made to the Scottish Office by that class of men. I would remind my right hon. Friend that the chairman of the Scottish Prison Commissioners stated a few weeks ago before the Royal Commission upon appointments in the Civil Service, with regard to the head warders in Scotland, thatthey occupy a position of importance and great responsibility, and are equal in position to the Deputy-Governor in English prisons.Whereas in Scotland the salary of these men begins at £95, and reaches a maximum of only £;120, the comparable rank in England begins at £250 and rises by increments of £5 and £10 to £350. What is the reason for that disparity between the remuneration of the men in Scotland, whose position and work is equal to that of the Deputy-Governor of Prisons in England? My second point is with regard to the revived office of clerks in Scottish prisons. That office has remained in abeyance for a period of twenty years, but has now been revived. I dare say there are very good reasons for reviving it. I can very well conceive that on the administrative side of the prison it may be important to have men whose work is particularly concerned with the clerical side only, and that there should be men concerned mainly with the stores in connection with the prison. But in appointing these new men. it is extremely desirable that they should not disturb the position of the existing officials in the prison. I understand that that is what is occurring. My right hon. Friend will remember that I represent a Division in Scotland where we have one of the largest prisons, which enables me to represent practically the constituents of all the other Members who sit for Scotland. If my right hon. Friend bears in mind what the remuneration of these clerks is to be, their hours of service, and the maximum salary to which they are to go, he will admit that the store warders will work longer hours for less money than 2731 the new type of official who is being introduced into the prison. That is obviously a state of affairs which may create dissatisfaction among a staff which, up to the present time, has given great satisfaction in the performance of its duties. The suggestion that has been made to me is that, instead of creating this new class, it might be possible to take that type of servant from the existing store warders and put them on to the clerical side of the prison work. Probably that would make it possible to remedy any dissatisfaction which does exist.
My third point is that of the conditions of the work of the store warders, as compared with the clerk and schoolmaster in English prisons. The Secretary for Scotland, in answer to a question upon this point, said that he could not at that moment discuss the difference in the condition in the English prison, as compared with the Scottish prison. That was quite true. But this is an opportunity which enables him to make a public statement as to why these men have these different conditions. I should like him to understand that the warders in Scottish prisons are not so much complaining about the fact that their remuneration is not equal to that of the clerk and schoolmaster, because they got some slight increase this year as the result of the representations made to him. But even so, while they have got increased remuneration, it is still true that both the minimum and the maximum of the class in Scotland and the class in England are such as work out to the disadvantage of the men in the Scottish prison. They also receive a smaller allowance, so that when they retire they get a smaller pension. The work of the clerk and schoolmaster in an English prison is the equivalent of that of the store warder in the Scottish prison. The clerk and schoolmaster have larger pay, a larger allowance, very much better hours and very much better conditions of service. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to give very sympathetic consideration to the claim of this class of servants to be put on an equal footing with their colleagues in English prisons 1 If there are substantial reasons why that should not be done, will my right hon. Friend tell us what they are. I am certain that he, along with the chairman of the Prison Commissioners, recognises the work that is being done by these men, and that while it is true that discontent must always exist inside the cell, we ought to see that so far as possible 2732 no discontent exists outside the cell among the store warders. If my right hon. Friend can hold out any hope that he will give this matter his sympathetic consideration, I can assure him in anticipation that these men will be extremely grateful to him.
§ 6.0. P.M.
The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
The store warders in the Scottish prisons have, I think, no present ground of grievance. It is only a month or two ago that they obtained an increase in their wages. The second class of store warders had their minimum raised,£10 and their maximum raised £10. The first class had their minimum raised £10 and their maximum £15, whereas the head store warders had increments of £5 minimum and £30 maximum, so that the plea. raised as regards money is a plea that has been met. I know these gentlemen are very assiduous in writing to Members of Parliament. In fact, they write to Members of Parliament with a frequency and diligence which are not altogether desirable.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
I do not quite understand my hon. Friend's explanation, because it seems self-contradictory. He defends their right to make representations, but says they had made none. I do not think they have any grievance at the moment on the ground of wages, because a substantial increase of their wages has been made. Then, the argument of my hon. Friend in comparing their status with the status of officials in English prisons is rendered inconclusive by the fact that he compared them with clerks and schoolmasters in English prisons, who are not doing the same kind of work, and cannot fairly be compared with them. It is not a good argument to compare men who are doing entirely different work and to demand that their status and emoluments and hours should be precisely similar. With regard to the head warders, they have not had any increase of salary since 1910, and the Treasury has refused to give any increase; but, in 1910, the two head warders who are the class of person referred to by my hon. Friend -had their salaries increased. The maximum salary 2733 of one was increased from £150 to £190, and the other had the minimum salary increased though the maximum was not altered. The other point raised by my hon. Friend is this: He asked why we had not promoted store warders to the position of clerks. That is a matter which the Prison Commissioners considered carefully, and they came to the conclusion that, with exceptions, the class of store warders had not the necessary experience to fulfil the duties of clerks in the larger prisons, and they gave me a complete table of the occupations of these officials before they were appointed, and I think they made their case good.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
No, I mean experience. In the larger prisons they have to do clerical work, and that requires some training in clerical work. A number of these men before appointment had no training of that kind at all, and in the view of the Prison Commissioners they were not suited to fill the posts. The Prison Commissioners put before me the reasons upon which they came to this conclusion, and I am bound to say they seemed to me to be convincing. Of course, the appointment does not disturb the position of the existing officials. The existing officials, if they had qualificatons, were open to be appointed, and their position is net hindered in any way except, of course, in so far as it was necessary to find people to do their work. There is a good deal of book-keeping to be dose in the larger prisons in Scotland, and I think the Prison Commissioners are justified in seeing that the work is done adequately and correctly in the public interests. Under these circumstances, I think they were right in saying they must have qualified men to perform the duty of clerks.
§ Mr. CLYNES
A few weeks ago my hon. Friend (Mr. Barnes) raised a question respecting the conduct of the police in connection with the Leith strike. We are glad to know that the strike has been settled, but the case pressed by my hon. Friend is one into which drastic inquiry was promised, and I wish to press for some information as to what has been the result of that inquiry. On the whole, in this country we have no great cause to quarrel with the conduct of the civil authorities in connection with trade disputes, but there are occasions, and this 2734 I think is one of them, when it would appear that the power of the police is thrown too much upon the employers' side, and when apparently it is intended to use them as a force to break a strike and to unduly interfere-with the legal rights of working men engaged in a strike. We object to this civil force being thrown upon the employers' side. I need only cite one instance to illustrate the ground of such a grievance as this. On one occasion, in connection with this strike, a band of miners with their band journeyed from Musselburgh and held a demonstration in Leith. They proceeded to head a procession to collect moneys in aid of the strikers in different parts of Leith, and were then returning to a particular piece of land so as to collect the members who, formed the procession, and who were to form it on the return journey, and while they were peacefully proceeding for this purpose of merely gathering the men together, they were deliberately charged by the police and some were rather severely handled. These are points which we think should receive the attention of the Government, as it is essential that the police should retain the confidence of all combatants in connection with these disputes, and we hope investigation has taken place into this question, and that the right hon. Gentleman can give some satisfactory answer.
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The inquiry promised by the Lord Advocate has commenced, but I have not yet learnt what the results are, and, indeed, sufficient time has hardly elapsed to enable one to expect that the results of an inquiry into what was a very grave and serious charge would be published. From the reports I have received from the chief constable and the sheriff, I hardly think it is correct to say that the civil forces were thrown on the employers' side. Although I believe the leaders themselves are anxious to avoid violence, there is no doubt, unfortunately, that acts of considerable violence did occur. Shops were broken into, and there was considerable rioting, whoever were the parties who took part in it, and the police certainly had a very difficult task on more than one occasion. I know no reason for believing that more force was exerted than was absolutely required by the circumstances of the moment. I can assure my hon. Friends that the matter which has been brought to my notice by the hon. Member (Mr. Barnes) will be most minutely and drastically inquired into.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
I wish to call attention to the question of the insufficiency of answers by Ministers to unstarred questions, particularly illustrated by one from which I am a sufferer to-day. I put this question, which I thought of considerable importance:—To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether advance copies of the Report of the Land Inquiry will be sent to landowners whose estate management is criticised therein and landowners in districts adversely criticised in the Report, and whether any replies such landowners may send to such criticisms will lie published with the Report, or whether any and what opportunity will be given to any landowners to reply to anonymous criticisms or statements of fact in such Report before the Report is publicly circulated.This was the only answer which came—I would ask the hon. and learned Member to await the publication of the Report before making definite suggestions as to the nature of its contents.It is of the utmost importance for many reasons, both for the sake of Ministers and others, to encourage unstarred rather than starred questions, and I certainly am not an offender in putting down starred questions and I do it reluctantly, but Ministers ought to give a full and fair answer or say they cannot do it. At this period of the Session I am entitled to plume myself to some extent on saving the time of Ministers by putting down unstarred questions. If I had put the question down starred I could have asked supplementary questions if necessary and in certain circumstances I could have moved the Adjournment of the House, but what is my position now? I have asked a question about the Report of a Land Inquiry. That Report is likely to be published in the Recess, and therefore directly it is published the mischief which this question is seeking to deal with will be done because, of course, it will be circulated amongst the public, and the people who are affected by the Report will not know who is responsible for it, and whether there is any answer to it. That point will be a stale one next February and, of course, the Report will have gone to the public, who are liable to believe anything which appears in print, and the mischief will be done. It is important for me to get an answer this Session. I cannot ask the question in the House because it Is already unstarred. I come here upon the Appropriation Bill, 2736 and it is out of order to raise the question because it does not affect public money. I am, therefore, without remedy, simply and solely because of my tender heartedness in putting down the question as unstarred instead of starred. When you put down a question unstarred you should get an answer, and not merely be asked to wait for the publication of the Report, which is not an answer to the question. I submit that I have suffered, because unless I get an answer this Session it is no use to me. I thought it my duty to bring the matter before the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as this is not the only occasion. I hope I shall get an assurance that in future, if I pursue the course I have always pursued of using unstarred instead of starred questions, he will give me a complete answer to any question which I put to him.
§ Sir WILFRID LAWSON
I ask the indulgence of the House for a short time in order to make a few remarks on a subject on which I feel very strongly, namely, the great and growing increase in expenditure on our naval and military preparations. I know that that increase is a popular one in certain quarters, and that the voice of anyone who protests against it is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness. But in spite of that, and at the risk of repeating a thrice-told tale, I wish to add for myself to what my hon. Friends the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) and the hon. Member for North Somerset (Mr. King) said yesterday on the subject. What is the position in this matter so far as this House is concerned'? Parliament, so far as the principle of peace. goes, is like another place which I need not mention, and which is paved with good intentions. We are all filled with sincere and pious aspirations for peace, but I rather doubt whether we are going the right way to practice what we preach. We all remember the noble and notable utterance of the Foreign Secretary not long ago in connection with the question of international arbitration. The Prime Minister has said that the race in armaments is the greatest and, in some ways, the most tragic paradox of our time." The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the expenditure devoted to armaments will, if persisted in at the present rate, "strangle civilisation," and the First Lord of the Admiralty has said that it is "the crowning folly of Christendom." In spite of that, what is the present position? The First Lord has made himself and the Govern- 2737 ment responsible along with all the other Christian fools for Estimates amounting to t sum of £45,000,000, the largest ever proposed in time of peace, and he has told us that we are now having the greatest number of warships ever delivered in the history of the British Empre. In that, and in other ways £100,000,000—two—thirds of the total revenue of the country, or an average of nearly 5s, a week for every family in the country—is being spent on payments for war or preparations for war. If these are our best methods, and that is the result from our efforts at preserving peace, I do not wonder that the Prime Minister described it as paradoxical. It seems to me much as though you proposed to lay in a supply of gunpowder in order to prevent explosions. Of course, I know that the First Lord suggested that there should be a holiday in these matters. But I see no signs of it.
I think we are engaged in a sort of rake's progress and are going from bad to worse. Why, we are putting all the elements under contribution—fire, of course, the earth, and the waters under the earth, and, as if that was not enough, we have got our heads in the air, or perhaps I ought to put it that the air has got into our heads ! We have spent so much time this Session in establishing and endowing some institutions, and in disestablishing and disendowing others, that there is very little left to which to apply the one process or the other. But there is one more world to conquer, and the War Office and the hon. Member for Rrentford (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) have put their heads together in an unholy alliance to endow the atmosphere, not with anything for its good, but with machines for slaughter. What are all those machinations and preparations for? I think that the dangers against which they are supposed to safeguard us are largely imaginary or, at least, hypothetical. We are told upon very high authority that it is necessary that we should all arm, because in five, ten, or fifteen years some other nation may do this, that, or the other. We do not know what we are going to do, or what we arc going to be in this country in five, ten, or fifteen years from now. We may be anything—Conservative, Liberal, Socialist, or Suffragette—and if we do not know our own minds, I do not know how anyone, unless it were possibly some member of another place, can tell what is going to be in the minds of other people. But I saw 2738 recently a rather more definite statement. I saw it stated that 150,000 Germans were going to land here in war time upon two conditions. The first was that they were not to be seen, and the second was that they were to have a calm crossing. There is to be "no moaning at the bar when they put out to sea." I scarcely think that either of these conditions is likely to be satisfied, and, therefore, we may dismiss that idea as out of the category of reasonable probabilities. I prefer myself to think that the Germans and all other nations are animated with the same feelings of Christianity and friendliness for us as I believe we have for them.
We do not know where we are going in this matter. I think we are in the position of the very small boy who was once met leading a large Newfoundland dog. Someone said, "Where are you going?" and he replied, "I do not know; it depends upon tile dog." Whether it takes us to the dogs or not, if expenditure is persisted in at the present rate it will eventually lead us to national bankruptcy. It seems to me that proceedings such as these, by which we are withdrawing men and money which might be put to better uses from productive to unproductive purposes, are bad in themselves, whether you look at them from the point of view of policy or the point of view of premium. We are about to separate at the end of the Session. In its earlier stages we were asked to vote a considerable portion of the £100,000,000 which I have mentioned for warlike preparations, and quite recently at the end of it we have been asked to vote £150,000 for the purposes of education—that is to say, we propose to spend 150,000 in putting brains into people, and £100,000,000 in providing means for knocking them out. I am bound to say I consider that a very bad bargain, the, figures of which I, for one, would like to see reversed. In spite of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's counsel of despair yesterday, I do think that there is a better way before us. As a Liberal I should like to put it in the words of the First Lord of the Admiralty. He spoke not long ago of the ideal Liberal as he understood him. He said:—Such a one ought to stand as a restraining force against an extravagant policy. Be is a man who ought to keep cool in the presence of Jingo clamour. He is a man who believes that confidence between nations begets confidence, and that the spirit of peace and goodwill makes the safety it seeks.I quote those words for the purpose of saying that I absolutely agree with them. If the First Lord of the Admiralty and I 2739 agree on the subject, I suppose the House may take it that it is fairly correct. I have only spoken because I felt that I should not be true to many of those who returned me here, as I certainly should not be true to my own convictions, unless I endeavoured to say, however inadequately, what I have said. I believe there is a great and growing feeling of misgiving and apprehension at the extension and the expansion of these bloated armaments, and all I have to say in conclusion to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the others in the Government who are responsible, is that I believe the more they act in the spirit of the declaration I have read the greater will be the gratitude which they will earn, and which they will deserve, not only among many members of their own party, but among vast numbers of the inhabitants of this country, quite irrespective of party.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I am sure the House is very grateful to my hon. Friend (Sir W. Lawson) for calling attention to this matter, and especially for the admirable way in which he has done it. Not only the theme but the treatment of it reminded me of his esteemed father whom I have heard many a time expound his views on this subject with equal delight and satisfaction to the whole House. I am not at all sorry that on the very last day of the Session attention should be drawn to the peril I referred to yesterday which is involved in the enormous growth of expenditure upon armaments, not merely in this country, but throughout the civilised world. I think it is one of the greatest menaces I can see to civilisation. I ventured to give a figure the other day which I shall repeat to the House, and which I think is one of the best indications of the rapidity with which expenditure is growing upon armaments in this country and in every other country. I find that the expenditure on all the navies of the world in 1886 was not equal to what we are spending on our Navy alone this year. I think that is a very startling circumstance. We are spending alone upon our Navy about 216,000,000 or £47,000,000 this year. Taking Germany, France. Japan, the -United States of America, and ourselves together we were not spending that amount in 1886. That is an indication of the alarming rate at which armaments are growing. The size of the ships are growing, there are new ideas in submarines and in airships 2740 and aeroplanes and hydroplanes, and we are not at the end yet, because science is assisting us to spend our money. It is not merely a question of ourselves, but it is, as I said yesterday, a question for all the civilised nations of the world to take into account.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles) reproached me yesterday for what I said, and that for-saying one nation alone could not stop it. I agree with another portion of his speech. He said if the Concert of Europe could settle matters of complication and. difficulty in the Near East, and if the Concert of Europe could show a spirit of harmony and good feeling and common sense in settling a menacing situation there, it ought also to try to unravel the present entanglement of spending on armaments, and of rivalry in expenditure, and ought to substitute for that spirit a spirit of co-operation and good will. If that were done not merely our own country but other countries in the world would be better off. There was something said yesterday about money stringency. The money stringency is for the moment a very great danger to our trade. While we are spending over £400,000,000 in the great industrial countries of the world upon armaments, it is idle to talk about getting money for trade. Ready cash is found for armaments, but it would be very much better spent upon the development of industrial resources in the various countries. I am not at all sorry that the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has called attention: to this subject.
I have now just a word to say in answer' to the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Rawlinson) about the Land Inquiry Committee. He asked me an important question about something that does not come under the control of my Department or of any other Government Department. The Prime Minister has been repeatedly asked questions of this kind, and he has given the only possible answer that could he given, and that is that the procedure of this Committee is a matter entirely for itself. The Prime Minister has no control over it; the Government have no control over it. We have only whatever opportunity offers to make suggestions. I have no doubt that suggestions made will be considered by that Committee, but they are perfectly at liberty either to adopt, reject, or ignore suggestions that may be made to them. Therefore I have no responsibility for the inquiry that is taking 2741 place. The hon. and learned Member has assumed something about the Report which I think he will find is utterly inaccurate when that Report is published. He is proceeding on the assumption that this is a kind of roving inquiry attacking landlords. He will find it is nothing of the kind, and therefore I think he had better wait until the Report is issued. I have not seen the Report.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I would not say what I have said unless I had some information as to the character of the Report.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No, I have not, but I have an idea what they have in their minds. It is not based on an attack on landlords. This Committee is simply inquiring into the present condition of things. It is a Committee of Inquiry just as there is a Committee of Inquiry which the hon. and learned Member's own party have been conducting. There is a Committee in connection with his party, of which the Marquess of Lansdowne is a member and, I think, a vice-president. They have simultaneously with this Committee sent out questions, thousands of them, broadcast across the country. I would not consider the hon. and learned Gentleman responsible if he was not a member, even if he was a Minister, to answer questions as to the doings of that Committee. I have no responsibility as a Minister or as a private individual for anything that has been done by these gentlemen, but I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will find, when the Report is issued, that the spirit in which the investigation has been conducted is totally different from what he thinks. I still say it is far better to wait and see the Report before the hon. and learned Gentleman assumes that this Committee is trying to find out disagreeable facts about individual landlords. They are not proceeding on these lines; it is not a Committee of that kind. It is investigating certain things in order to arrive at certain facts, but I have no responsibility for its work or procedure.
§ Mr. GEORGE ROBERTS
It is with reluctance I rise to continue the Debate, and I would not do so except that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester had intended to raise the question with which I am about to deal on the Home Office 2742 Vote, but unfortunately was crowded out, and he gave an undertaking to the parties interested that the question should be raised upon the Appropriation Bill. My hon. Friend being unable to be present himself to-day, has asked me to honour that undertaking, and that is the justification and the apology which I offer for standing between hon. Members and the holidays which we all desire. The matter arises out of a question addressed by my hon. Friend to the Home Secretary on 11th June. My hon. Friend then asked the Home Secretary whether his attention has been called to a statement made regarding the treatment of Mrs. Haines in Camberwell House, in the course of which allegations were made that all the procedure necessary for her classification as a lunatic had not been gone through in the proper fashion, and my hon. Friend asked whether inquiries would be made. The Home Secretary replied that he had seen certain statements in the Press respecting this case, and that he had previously received representation to the same effect, and that he had referred the matter to the Commissioners in Lunacy, who had reported that after careful inquiry into these complaints they were satisfied that there was no ground for them. On 30th June my hon. Friend addressed a further question to the Home Secretary upon the same subject. The case seems to suggest that there are grave defects in the existing Lunacy Laws, and that great abuses are possible. The facts of this case have been supplied to my hon. Friend, who has taken considerable interest in the case, and he is convinced that it presents certain aspects which call for publicity. The facts are these:
This Mrs. Haines in question had been engaged in conducting a large boardinghouse business, and it is alleged that the strain of the business caused a nervous breakdown. A local doctor was called in to deal with the case, and the allegation that I have to make is not directed particularly against the doctor called in. because, as I understand, he referred the matter to an assistant in his service. This assistant advised the woman's removal to a nursing home, and said that her condition made it inadvisable that she should be removed to any great distance. Therefore, it was recommended that she should' apply for admission into Camberwell House. I understand Camberwell House is a place where lunatics are admitted, and 2743 the point we desire to submit here, first of all, is that no suggestion of insanity ever was advanced at that stage in the case of Mrs. Haines. Acting upon the advice of the doctor, the woman was removed to Camberwell House on 10th June, 1910. Her husband visited her the day following her admission and found her perfectly comfortable. He called again four days later, 15th June, but was not allowed to see her, and the reason assigned for that refusal was that his visit of four days previously had so upset her that they felt they were warranted in making the refusal on that occasion. The man was then asked to sign a document which would enable his wife to remain in Camberwell House as a patient, the reason for this request being that a heavy penalty would otherwise be incurred for allowing a sane person to remain in a lunatic asylum. The evidence supplied to us is that Mr. Haines did not read the form, and, therefore, of course, I am bound to admit that he did not properly perform his own duty to his wife. We know the class of people we often have to deal with, and therefore it is said the man did not read the form; that he filled in no particulars, and that it was only sometime afterwards he learned that he hadbeen prevailed upon to sign a lunacy petition. The man called several times subsequently to see his wife, and was put off for various reasons. On 25th June he insisted upon seeing her, and then he found her in a semi-conscious condition, and altogether in a very parlous state of health. Against the wish of the Camberwell House authorities Mr. Haines insisted on taking his wife away. Five days after having taken his wife away from Camberwell House he received a communication from the Lunacy Commissioners to the effect that his wife had been discharged "not improved." The husband took no notice of this communication, and nothing further was heard. The matter rested there awhile, but, upon the recovery to health of Mrs. Haines, inquiries were set on foot, and copies of the certificate in question were obtained. For the first time they were made acquainted with the fact that the doctor's certificate had attested that the facts of the woman's case indicated insanity, and they say that it was the first time that lunacy was ever suggested to them, and that, therefore, in their opinion, the woman had been kept in this place without any reasonable cause.
Another point they made was that the necessary certificate—that is, the attesta 2744 tion of the justice of the peace, as well as the certificate of the doctor—was not. properly obtained. The allegation is that the justice of the peace who made the attestation had not seen Mrs. Haines at all, and certainly, if that be the case, there was a gross irregularity, and, if that be the customary practice, then it is quite conceivable that quite innocent persons could be incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. It is that which has, of course, animated my hon. Friend in directing public attention to the circumstances of the case. The Lunacy Acts require, as I understand, that a patient should be informed within twenty-four hours of reception into an asylum that he or she has a right of appeal to judicial authority. We are informed that this patient was not apprised of this power, and certainly the evidence, as submitted to us, leads us to believe that she had no knowledge that this power did exist. Our case, then, is that the certification and the incarceration of Mrs. Haines was secured on the word of one doctor alone, originally engaged for this woman, or of an assistant in his employ. I think these are the salient facts of the case, and, as I have observed already, it is only because my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party has felt that there is a point of public interest involved that he has called attention to the matter. If the facts prove that that was the practice pursued, then there is positive danger involved to the liberty of quite harmless and innocent subjects, and I would express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to relieve the anxieties that we entertain, for I think we have established a case for inquiry, with a view to determining whether or not the Lunacy Acts do afford sufficient protection to people, or whether an alteration is required, or whether, after all, the administration of the lunacy laws have been in fault in this particular case. My only reason for rising on behalf of my hon. Friend is in order to protect the liberty of the subject in similar circumstances, should they arise.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I wish to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary the case of Police-constable Carr, of South Fulham, who has retired on a pension. His name has been mentioned in this House before, and he was one of the most able of constables in the country in matters regarding public morality. A testimonial is being got up for him by clergymen, Nonconformists, and others, and by a local society, be- 2745 cause of his splendid service in dealing with what is called the "white slave traffic." The man has done his duty for a great many years, but he has never been favoured by promotion, and now it is his turn to retire. These people wish to make him a present because of the manner in which he has pursued those vagabonds who run these disorderly houses and inveigle women into them. We passed an Act a short time ago which prevents any police officer receiving any testimonial. I do not think that measure was intended to apply to such a case as this; I believe it was intended to apply to officers who received rewards from interested persons. I think the Home Secretary has power to remove the obstacle to this constable receiving this testimonial, and I hope he will inquire into the case and give permission for this public testimonial to be subscribed and presented.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I desire to call attention to one aspect of the case which I brought forward the other evening. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, whether he still adheres to his statement made in the Debate the other evening, that the report of the case which appeared in the "News of the World" did not contain the extract which I read out to the House? I ask the question for this reason. After the right hon. Gentleman finished he brought me a copy of the paper containing the report, and which he said did not contain the statement which I read out. On the strength of that I have asked the editor of the "News of the World" why this paragraph did not appear in all the editions. I have gone further, and this morning I have consulted all the editions of the paper which were issued for that week, and, so far as I can ascertain, every edition contains the statement I quoted. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make the matter clear and explain why we could not find the paragraph the other evening, when the matter was being discussed. It is only fair to the editor of the paper that the correction should be made public. The point I desire to raise concerns the raising of a fresh action against the woman Queenie Gerald for procuration. The right hon. Gentleman said in reply to my former statement that he did not know what I wanted to do, and I tried to make it clear then that I wanted one of two things, either that he should publish the correspondence, or, if that was impossible, to bring a charge of procuration against the 2746 woman Queenie Gerald, so that all the facts might be brought into the light of day. In reply to that the right hon. Gentleman made statements which appeared to me to be so serious that they require some further explanation before this case is allowed to drop. In they OFFICIAL REPORT these words occur as having been used by the Home Secretary. I had quoted from: the "Times" report a passage from the speech of Mr. Travers Humphreys, in which he was made to say:—Letters found on the premises made it clear that accused was carrying on the trade of a pocuress.I quoted subsequently from the "Daily Telegraph" and from the "News of the. World" a more elaborate report, in which the same statement occurrel, but supported by more evidence. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said in reply:—The third statement was with regard to the statement made by Mr. Lawrie in the course of the case. Mr. Lawrie stated, in summing up, that there was some evidence that she haul acted as procuress. I think that Mr. Lawrie, in making that statement, was incorrect on the facts of the ease.That seems to me, Mr. Speaker, to cast a rather serious reflection upon the pre-siding magistrate. But as to the evidence in support of the charge of procuration it appears to me that there should not be. and could not be any difficulty in obtaining it. The question turns on the question of the letters seized by the police, and, which presumably, are still in their possession. The right hon. Gentleman said that those letters were not themselves sufficient evidence to justify bringing a charge. These were the words he used:—Then it was said, Oh, but there were the letters. The letters show that she was employed by others to, procure.' With the single exception of one name, not one of these letters is signed. The only name that appears in the handwriting of the writer of the letter was the name which was mentioned in Court.I want to know what the right hon. Gentleman means by those letters not being signed. I wish to ask was there a signature to any other letter?
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
May I ask whether those letters were bogus letters or business letters, and, if they were business letters there must have been some means whereby the woman could identify the writers. They were found in her accounts or in her diary, and it seems to me a mere 2747 quibble to say that, because the names which appear were not in the handwriting of the writer of the letters, the Home Office were not justified in taking further action to find out from whom the letters came. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—But all the other letters no doubt indicated a desire on the part of persons unknown that Gerald should procure innocent girls for them, but Gerald never did procure such girls,7.0 P.M.
I ask the Home Secretary to tell us his authority for that last statement. How does he know whether she procured innocent girls for these men or not? What is his evidence on the point, and, if not, what was his reason for going out of his way to make such a very definite statement on a subject on which there appears to be considerable evidence that the very reverse was the truth? One more quotation on this point from column 2393 of the OFFICIAL REPORT Of 12th August last. The Home Secretary also said:—There is no evidence that it was a true statement because there is no evidence, and, on the contrary, the whole of the evidence goes to show that this woman never acted as a procuress. The evidence leads to the impression that certain people, whose names are not known, believed that she was acting as a procuress and gave her considerable sums of money in that belief, but she never procured for them any other girl than the girl who was a street walker and in her flat. Those are the facts.Once more I ask the right hon. Gentleman to explain how he knows those are all the facts. Surely the fact of these men writing certain letters and sending large sums of money shows that there must be other facts which have not come to the Home Secretary's knowledge and which further investigations might bring out' We have a Scotch proverb which says, "There's aye some water where there's ice." When we have all this evidence of attempts to procure girls, and the woman's replies to such requests agreeing to procure girls, it would take a good deal to convince the average man who is not a lawyer that there is not sufficient evidence on which to base a charge of procuration against this woman. Just one more statement, and then my task is finished as far as this House is concerned. Referring to the question of the names, the Home Secretary said—and I quote from column 2395 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 12th August last:—We come to the question of names. It is said that it was in order not to disclose the names. There are no names. With the exception of the name Morris there is no name signed to any one of these letters. There are names which appear, as I have already stated, m a diary kept by the woman, and in a sort of ledger kept by her. 2748 In her ledger she has scores and hundreds of entries of sums of money paid, and against some few of these sums of money there is a name—in quite a few cases. That name is in the handwriting of the woman, and whether or not it represents the person it purports to represent it is absolutely impossible to say. The same is true of the names in the woman's diary. There are a number of names.There is the point which is causing so much uneasiness in this House and outside of it. It is known, and it is admitted publicly, that those names were found and they are now in the possession of the authorities. Letters and other documents were found bearing upon procuration. I do not say the whole of the correspondence, but letters, documents, and other evidence, including the woman's own letters, were found bearing upon procuration. The Prosecutor for the Crown, Mr. Travers Humphreys, stated in the most emphatic manner that they had evidence to show that this woman was acting as a procuress.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I think Mr. Travers Humphreys did not say "some evidence," but that it was Mr. Lawrie, the Deputy-Chairman of Quarter Sessions, who said so. Mr. Travers Humphreys made no such qualification, and just to make that point clear perhaps I may be allowed to read his statement.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
This is from the "News of the World":—Other things were found there. All sorts of practices had been carried on. A number of letters were seized which made it quite clear that, apart from prisoner's earnings, and apart from the three girls, she had been carrying on the trade of a procuress. Further, there was a copy of a letter which the woman herself had written which made it abundantly clear that she was guilty of procuration.That is my case. I think it lies with 1 he authorities and the Home Office to take action to have this woman tried on the charge of procuration, and unless they do so I shall be justified in believing, and many besides me will believe, that the reason why that course has not been taken is because there are names mixed up in this case which the Home Secretary and the authorities are averse to having revealed.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I wish to dissociate myself from that view of the case altogether which has just been mentioned by the hon. Member. I do not think the Home Secretary desires to shield anybody, but I should be glad if he could assure us 2749 that the matter would be considered by these legal advisers to see whether anything could be done in the matter.
§ Mr. McKENNA
In reply to the remark of the hon. Member for Member, I entirely deny the charge that I have some motive in not proceeding with this case. The hon. Member asks that this woman should be proceeded against on the charge of procuration. Before such action could be brought there must be evidence upon which to found the charge. What is the evidence of procuration against this woman? First of all, let me remind hon. Members that procuration in its legal sense is a term apart, and has not got the ordinary meaning of procuring a woman, whether that woman be already a prostitute or not. In the sense of the Act of Parliament procuration means procuring a woman who is not a prostitute. How are you going to begin to establish a charge against Queenie Gerald of this kind with all the evidence which the police have got from the women, four in number, who were in her flat. It is that, on first going to the flat, she asked them whether they were already on the streets, because, if they were not, she had no use for them. It must be remembered that this case was founded upon the evidence of those women, those girls, who were the witnesses of the police; and the first question counsel for the defendant would put to the police witness would be, "Were you already a prostitute before you went to this flat?" and their answer, upon their own statement to the police, would be, "We were." How, under circumstances such as that, could a charge of procuration be founded against this woman? It is absolutely inconceivable. Even if we could bring a charge of the kind against the woman, there would be no names which could be published, except the name of Morris, which has already been published. The hon. Member for Merthyr said that evidence of procuration, if it were evidence, which is absolutely repudiated by the testimony of the girls, would be the fact that letters were found in the flat making certain proposals to Queenie Gerald.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes, but there is abundant evidence to show that there was no response to those letters. What she did was to receive the payment for procuring, but never to procure a woman who was 2750 not already a prostitute—that is to say, not to procure in the legal sense of the term. There is abundant evidence. I do not like to use the language, but I cannot make myself clear in other words, that she defrauded her clients, but there is no evidence that she was carrying on as a procuress. At a certain stage in the development of this proceeding it is quite conceivable that Mr. Travers Humphreys may have fallen into the error of believing that there was evidence of this charge. That is not so. There was no case that could be brought by the police. Even if we did bring a case, in all the letters that were written, and I am not going to say how they were signed exactly, the writers signed them, and I am not using the exact names, "Jack," "Tom," "Harry," and so on, with absolutely no means of identifying any of them, with no addresses, and not on ordinary writing paper, and the writers took very good care that they could not be identified by their letters. Having written their letters they were, in fact, not parties to real procuration, but were defrauded by the woman.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Yes; and if we could have got at them, we would have proceeded against them at once. In the case of the only name and address we did get, we attempted to proceed against the man Morris, but he fled the country instantly. He knew of his guilt.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Still he was guilty of attempting to procure, and we would have proceeded against him instantly if we could have got him, but he fled the country and we had no chance of doing so. How, under the circumstances, can the hon. Member intend to bolster up a case either in this House, or, as he suggests, out of it, which can only be a misrepresentation either of the facts or of the replies given to him? Let me deal with other points. The hon. Member has entirely misunderstood about the "News of the World," and about the divergence in our readings from that "News of the World" report. I saw the hon. Member's report. I saw in that report the words which he had used, and directly he read them to the House, I looked at my report and I could find no such words, but the mystery was explained at once when I observed that his copy 2751 of the "News of the World" was of one date, and the other copy of the "News of the World" was of a different date. I pointed that out to the hon. Member at the time, and what is the good of bringing it up again when the mystery was explained in an interruption.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
May I ask whether these reports, although of different dates, were not of the same proceedings? I am not bringing any charge against the right hon. Gentleman, but in the interests of debate I want to have it explained.
§ Mr. McKENNA
It is the same case, but a different part of the proceedings. The mistake was quite obvious to us both when I pointed out the different dates. Why raise the matter again when the mistake was so abundantly explained at the time? The hon. Member called attention to my having stated that none of those letters were signed in the writer's own handwriting. What I said was that there were no names in the writer's own handwriting. By names I meant names by which persons are known and could be identified. I do not call "Tom," "Dick," or "Harry" the signature of a name. The distinction I was then drawing, and I thought the hon. Member understood, was that where there are names given in the diary or ledger which could be identified in no case is the name in the handwriting of the person to whom the name is supposed to refer. The only case in which a name appears in the handwriting of the owner of the name is that of Morris. I repeat—and I am sure that the House and the public will support me in this view—that it would be a moral wrong to publish the names of men who may be possibly innocent and against whom we have no evidence whatever except the inscription of their names in a diary or ledger in the handwriting of a brothel-keeper. It would be a wrong, and would possibly inflict irreparable injury upon men who might be innocent. There is one more question. The hon. Member asked, How do I know that these are all the facts? You cannot launch a prosecution against a person on the speculative chance of discovering the facts. That is not our interpretation of the criminal law. If the hon. Member's views as to how the criminal law might be used were adopted against himself and his friends, he would be the first, and rightly, to complain that prosecutions were brought merely in the hope of finding evidence against the 2752 prisoners in the course of the trial. You must have evidence first. We have no evidence, and in the absence of evidence it is impossible to proceed. I hope I have now disposed of the matter. I think I have answered every point. I now turn to the much shorter and simpler case raised by the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. Roberts). Let me remind him that the case is nearly three years old. Mrs. Haines was put into Camberwell House by her husband. It is said that the husband did not know what he was doing. That is very remarkable. But how were the Camberwell House authorities to know that the husband who signed the petition in lunacy respecting his wife did not know what he was doing? But that is not the only answer. The husband was at liberty-to withdraw his wife from Camberwell House at any time he pleased, and he did so withdraw her. What is the case? I have read that the doctors made a mistake in certifying the woman as a lunatic when she was not a lunatic. It is a most regrettable fact. But they did the best on the evidence before them. They had the husband's petition, and there were undoubtedly symptoms of lunacy. That is admitted. She was detained for only a short time altogether. I really think that to reopen the case after three years is asking too much, particularly when it is admitted that if there was any wrong, the husband, who is now complaining, was himself the chief offender. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract put a question with regard to the case of a police-constable who is now retiring. I am well aware of the excellent services undertaken by this officer, and I will look into the question whether it would be possible to do anything for him.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I wish to raise a question of considerable interest, not only to the individual immediately concerned, but also to the whole Territorial Force. The facts of the case are exceedingly simple. The Ross-shire Mounted Battery were encamped at Barry this year. On the 25th July they left Barry for Stornoway about half-past nine o'clock at night, and reached Inverness at half-past six the next morning. A corporal and two privates there left the train for an hour or two, and did not go on by the special train which took the whole of the contingent. It seems that the adjutant of the company saw the corporal at Inverness, and immediately telegraphed to the officer in charge of the company, giving instructions that the corporal should be divested of his stripes 2753 when the train arrived at Kyle of Lochalsh station. Against this officer I have nothing to say. I believe he is a very capable and excellent officer. He went to the train, took this man into the waiting room, and divested him of his stripes. From the point of view of the corporal, this is a very serious affair. A man who gets his stripes receives an award for his military ardour or excellent character, and it is a great reflection on a man's moral character that, after he has been to camp as a non-commissioned officer, his friends should find that during the time he has been away his stripes have been taken from him. It is also a serious matter from the point of view of the Territorials of the country. If it is to be published abroad that without trial of any sort, without even being asked for an explanation, a capable officer can be divested of his stripes in this summary manner, not only will the Territorials not maintain their present strength, but they will decrease in number as the days go by. I am not going into the legal question. I will only point out that under Section 257 of the Territorial Force Regulations, published in 1912, it is laid down that any man leaving before the termination of the camp without having obtained permission of his -commanding officer renders himself liable to be taken into military custody and to be tried and punished under the Army Act for the offence of absence without leave. Under Section 255, if a non-commissioned officer or man illegally absents himself from duty while subject to military law—
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
He must be tried by a Court of Inquiry. All I ask is that if the adjutant in this case acted ultra vires this man should be reinstated. There is
§ nothing against the man's character. As I understand, there was no order against him leaving the train, and to deal with him in this summary and degrading manner is to act against the best interests of the Territorial Force. I would, therefore, ask my hon. Friend to consider the matter very seriously.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Mr. Tennant)
If we had been able to reach the question which my hon. Friend had on the Paper to-day, I should have answered him to this effect: "The General Officer Commanding in Chief has informed the War Office that the original reports submitted to him was too vague and had been returned for further details; that the non-commissioned officer in question deliberately left the train contrary to orders verbally given by the adjutant; that the inquiry is still proceeding, but that the individuals concerned are difficult to communicate with." I do not quarrel with my hon. Friend's statement except in one particular. I am informed that orders were given verbally by the adjutant that men should not leave the train. In the event of the inquiry proving that the commanding officer acted ultra wires I will endeavour to have the matter put right. I do not think my hon. Friend will expect me to go beyond that at this moment. If need be the man may be reinstated, but I must not be understood to be pledging myself that he will be reinstated. At any rate, a full inquiry will be held into the case.
§ Mr. KING rose—
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 127; Noes, 10.2755
|Division No. 279.]||AYES.||[7.28 p.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Clynes, John R.||Goldstone, Frank|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Cotton, William Francis||Greig, Colonel J. W.|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Cowan, W. H.||Griffith, Ellis Jones|
|Balfour. Sir Robert (Lanark)||Crumley, Patrick||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Cullinan, John||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Delany, William||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Dillon, John||Hackett, John|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Donelan, Captain A.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)|
|Boland, John Pius||Doris, William||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Duffy, William J.||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Hayden. John Patrick|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Esmonde. Sir Thomas (Wexferd, N.)||Hay ward, Evan|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Essex, Sir Richard Walter||Hazleton, Richard|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Ffrench, Peter||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Carr-Gomm. H. W.||Field, William||Higham, John Sharp|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Hodge, John|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Ginnell, Laurence||Hogg, David C.|
|Clough, William||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Hogge, James Myles|
|Holmes, Daniel Turner||Morgan, George Hay||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Morison, Hector||Rowlands, James|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Muldoon, John||Scan Ian, Thomas|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Munro, Robert||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Nolan", Joseph||Sheehy, David|
|Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Shortt, Edward|
|Kilbride, Denis||Nuttall, Harry||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Lardner, James C. R.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Leach, Charles||O'Doherty, Philip||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Lynch, A. A.||O'Dewd, John||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|McGhee, Richard||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Taylor, Thomas (Bolton)|
|Maclean, Donald||O'Malley, William||Tennant, Harold John|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wardle, George J.|
|Macpherson, James Ian||O'Shee, James John||Waring, Walter|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||White, J. Dun das (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|M'Callum, Sir John M.||Parry, Thomas H.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|McKenna. Rt. Hon. Reginald||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Whitley, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Pringle, William M. R.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Marshall, Arthur Harold||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|Molloy, Michael||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hardie, J. Keir|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. King and Mr. Watt.|
|Bull, Sir William James||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
Bill read the third time, and passed.