HL Deb 23 May 1898 vol 58 cc266-89

My Lords, in moving the Second Reading of this Bill, I must ask your Lordships to forgive the audacity which has prompted so inexperienced a Member of your Lordships' House to trespass upon its time by the introduction of a Bill. I must confess, however, to feeling less diffidence than might otherwise have been the case when I remember that the business of this House has not of late been of a very arduous character, and that to-day we are separating for the Whitsuntide Recess. My Lords, I am naturally drawn towards this subject, as anyone must be whose work brings him closely in contact with London questions, since it is London that has to bear the brunt of the burden of this alien invasion imposed on our people. My Lords, the Bill which I now ask your Lordships to read a second time is not only substantially but verbally the same as the Bill introduced by the noble Marquess the Prime Minister, without any opposition, four years since. The provisions of that Bill which are not reproduced in the Measure now before the House dealt with persons dangerous to the country as an organised political and social community, while those whom it is hoped to reach in the present Measure are rather injurious economically. With regard to the latter the proposals are, as I have told your Lordships, identically the same as the proposals contained in the noble Marquess's Bill. On the occasion of the discussion of that Bill objection was not taken to the principle of the first part; it was agreed on all sides that circumstances might arise which would render such a Measure as this necessary. But, my Lords, I admit that considerable exception was taken to the actual provisions of the Bill. The noble Marquess himself did not hesitate to acknowledge that there might be defects in the machinery suggested, and he expressed his willingness to adopt any better machinery that noble Lords could suggest, in the event of the Bill reaching Committee. That, my Lords, is precisely the attitude that I must humbly adopt in regard to the present Bill. There is no necessity for me, therefore, to elaborate the main proposal—the principle, in fact—of this Bill, which your Lordships have already endorsed by a large majority. That being the case, it only remains for me to state that the arguments used in favour of the Bill then apply now, and that any cause which existed in 1894 for such a Measure as the present one exists to-day, and, as I hope to show your Lordships, in a strengthened form. I hardly like to trouble your Lordships with ancient history, but the finding of the Committee of 1889, appointed to inquire into this subject, seems to be so pertinent to the issue that I cannot refrain from quoting a passage that was also referred to by the noble Marquess when he introduced his Bill. The Committee stated that— While your Committee see great difficulties in the way of enforcing laws similar to those in the United States, and certain other countries, against the importation of pauper and destitute aliens, and while they are not prepared to recommend such legislation at present, they contemplate the possibility of such legislation becoming necessary in the future, in view of the crowded conditions of our great towns, the extreme pressure for existence among the poorer part of the population, and the tendency of destitute foreigners to reduce still lower the social and material condition of our own poor. What, my Lords, were the words the noble Marquess used? He said that— After that recommendation, perhaps I shall be asked why I have thought that it is now necessary or desirable to introduce the prohibition, in which the Committee saw great difficulty. Well, since that time five years have passed, and several circumstances have occurred, which lead me to think that the time which the Committee foresaw has come, and that it is desirable that the power which the United States has taken to itself in so large a measure should be assumed in some degree by the Government of the Queen. My Lords, if the time had come four years ago, how much more must it have come now, unless, indeed, there has been some striking change for the better in the interval? But has this stream of alien immigration, which struck the noble Marquess as so dangerous, diminished in volume? Has it trickled out? My Lords, in 1894, for the six months ending the 31st of May, 19,400 was returned as the total number of alien immigrants who had come to this country to stay. The last available Board of Trade Return up to the end of April, shows that the number of these immigrants was 14,592, as against 13,645 for the corresponding four months of last year. So whereas for six months in 1894 the total was 19,400, or an average of some 3,200 a month, the figures for four months in this year are 14,500 odd, or an average of 3,800 a month, thus showing a monthly increase of over 600 for this year as compared with four years ago. So that the argument from statistics is stronger now than when the former Bill was introduced. It has often been said that statistics can prove anything. I do not wish to base my case primarily on statistics. It is quite possible, and from what I can gather I am inclined to think that these official figures do give a slightly exaggerated appearance to the actual facts; but, my Lords, whether these aliens come in large quantities, or whether they come in small quantities, they do come, and in quantities at least serious enough to sensibly affect our own people, and the conditions of life of our own people, in the localities in which they settle. My Lords, if this were not a local question, there might be no need to trouble your Lordships this afternoon with such a Measure as this. Those who wish to minimise the evil we are discussing are fond of talking lightly of the fact of a few thousand aliens scattered up and down amongst forty million people. My Lords, that is just, the point. They are not scattered. They do congregate, and in certain limited areas, mainly in the East End of London, and it is in the East End of London that one is able to see how easily and how rapidly this influx can affect local trade, and the conditions of social life. Their presence, my Lords, seems to have a treble effect. It lowers the standard of wages, it enhances the standard of rent, and so depresses the standard of life. The first, thing, my Lords, that the newly-arrived alien with his wife and family—the alien is usually married—does is not unnaturally to seek a lodgment, and this he must do in a quarter where other aliens are living. He finds every house full—houses always are full in the East End of London; and he thereupon proceeds to offer the landlord a little higher rent than his English tenant is at present paying him. The landlord accepts, of course. The Englishman goes out; the alien comes in. My Lords, it seems strange, I admit, that the landlord should be willing to exchange a tenant whom he knows for a hypothetical tenant he does not know. The reason is really because the landlord can turn him out in the same way as he has turned the former tenant out, knowing perfectly well that there are half a dozen others willing to take his place. My Lords, the usual rise, I may mention, in these instances, is from 6d. to 1s., but cases have recently come to light in the East End where as much as 5s. additional rent has been paid by an alien to take the place of an English tenant. Again, my Lords, I am told that what is called "the price of a key," which is the term for tenant-right in the East End, has enormously increased of late, as much as £5, £6, and £7 being not infrequently obtained. Well, my Lords, to revert to the alien who has just arrived with no means of subsistence, and with his wife and family, he has succeeded in getting a lodging, but how is he to pay the rent? He must obtain work at any price, even at a rate considerably below the standard current in the district, with the all too probable result of ousting some English labour, and generally lowering the standard. But that is not enough to meet the demands for rent and living. The standard of life, also, has to be lowered, and the newly-arrived alien is able to live in a way that no English working man or working woman would consider decent. He proceeds to take in lodgers, and rooms—frequently a single room—already overcrowded by the alien and his family, are still more overcrowded by the inclusion of two, three, and more lodgers. My Lords, everyone knows what a train of evils follow in the wake of overcrowding. There is no problem more difficult than is the problem of overcrowding, and, so long as this influx continues, the efforts of the local bodies to cope with it here in London, and in Leeds and Manchester, where these aliens mostly centre, must be greatly, if not practically, neutralised. This overcrowding difficulty, I submit, my Lords, is of itself sufficient to justify, even to necessitate, a Measure of this kind being passed into law. I have had opportunities of discussing with gentlemen who are personally engaged in investigating this problem on the spot, and though they will not go to the length that I do in respect of the labour side of the question, they entirely agree, indeed insist, that its urgency in regard to overcrowding cannot be overrated. My Lords, it cannot be doubted that there is a very strong feeling amongst the English population in the East End against this alien intrusion. It is said by some that this feeling must be put down to race hatred, that it is an aspect of the anti-Semitism that we find on the Continent. My Lords, I do not for one moment believe this to be the case. The feeling is not against the Jew, as a Jew; it is not against the foreigner, as a foreigner; it is not against the alien because he is an alien. Conversations with any of those people affected—and I have spoken to English Jews who are equally affected—convince one that their complaints are not prompted by any race hatred, but by a sense of personal loss, incurred through the habits and actions of a group of people; and were these people English the feeling would be exactly the same. My Lords, it is the injury they resent, not the nationality of those who inflict it. I trust, my Lords, I have not spoken at too great a length, or wearied your Lordships, whom I thank sincerely for kind attention to an exposition of this subject that I fear must have appeared singularly lame to this House, that has had the privilege of listening to the noble Marquis, and also to Lord Rosebery, on the same subject. My Lords, there can be no need to trouble your Lordships further, for the pledges that Her Majesty's Government have given in regard to this question assure me that they will not only support this Measure to-day, but that they will feel bound to safeguard its passage in another place. The President of the Board of Trade, on February 9th, of last year, said in the House of Commons in reference to this subject— We adhere to every pledge we have given, and I hope at no distant time to propose to Parliament legislation. And again in January of this year, in reply to a question of Sir Howard Vincent, in regard to this proposed legislation, he pointed the honourable Member to this very Bill of which I now have the honour to move the Second Reading.


My Lords, I think that, as my noble Friend says, the time has now arrived when legislation on the lines suggested by this Bill is eminently desirable. When last this subject was discussed by your Lordships, in 1894, the noble Earl then at the head of the Government, while admitting the principle embodied in a Measure almost identical with this one, opposed its further progress on the ground that the immigration complained of was both small and decreasing. Well, my Lords, we are now in a position to judge as to the accuracy of that opinion, and we can see from the statistics which are available on this subject that not only has the immigration of destitute foreigners into this country not decreased since that time, but that, on the contrary, it has increased steadily year by year. Of course, my Lords, I am well aware that the argument from statistics has often been overstrained, and that both writers and speakers upon this subject have, in estimating the extent of foreign immigration, been inclined to dwell too much upon the numbers of those who come into this country without through tickets, and to ignore the fact that many of those subsequently move on elsewhere. But, my Lords, considerations of that kind do not affect the undoubted statistical facts—firstly, the fact that our total foreign population has increased by at least 40,000 persons during the last seven years; and, secondly, the fact that the stream of Russian and Polish immigration—in other words, the immigration of the most destitute type—is increasing in volume year by year. For instance, my Lords, in 1894 there were 7,500 immigrants of these nationalities; in 1895 10,200; in 1896, 12,800; and in 1897, 14,800. My Lords, I cannot help thinking that these facts are very significant, for they show not merely the total increase of foreigners coming into this country, but they show also a steady and progressive increase in the numbers of the least desirable class of those foreigners. My Lords, there is another point in connection with these statistics to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. I have said that allowances must be made, in estimating the extent of alien immigration, for those who come here without through tickets, but who subsequently migrate elsewhere. But it does not follow that all those who again migrate in this way are necessarily newcomers; on the contrary, it is most probable that many of them have been resident here for some time, and have during that period saved sufficient money to enable them to go elsewhere. In other words, my Lords, those who go are often the best, and those who remain are often the worst of this class. The tendency, therefore, is gradually to make this country the receptacle of a residuum composed of the least capable and least efficient. These statistics show, in my opinion at any rate, that the immigration which my noble Friend complains of is neither small nor is it diminishing; but that, on the contrary, it is of an extent which calls for urgent and careful consideration. Moreover, my Lords, I would remind your Lordships that it is beside the point to estimate the extent of alien immigration in proportion to the total population. As my noble Friend has pointed out, if these aliens, on arriving here, spread out over the country in fairly equal proportions, their presence would be a matter of comparative unimportance, but this is exactly what they do not do. On the contrary, they concentrate for the most part in certain districts, and go to swell the foreign settlements which already exist there. From three-fourths to four-fifths, my Lords, of the Russian and Polish immigrants come to London, and settle in the districts of Whitechapel, St. George's-in-the-East, and Mile End. In 1891, when the last census was taken, there were in those three districts 22,000 Russians and Poles, and though of course we have no figures as to their numbers since that time, the Commissioner of Police has reported that the number of foreign Jews in London still increases, and that the area inhabited by them is still extending. Similar reports, my Lords, are also sent by the local authorities. At the beginning of this year the Mile End Vestry stated that they were aware that there had been a considerable increase of immigration of aliens into the district, and the sanitary inspectors of both the south and east districts of St. George's have reported to a similar effect. Well, my Lords, it may be true that the total number of alien immigrants in this country is still small as compared with the total population, but it is an undoubted fact that there is in many urban districts a large and growing foreign community, which is gradually ousting the native inhabitants. Those, my Lords, are the facts, and they, I think, suggest two serious questions—firstly, what view we are to take with regard to this increase of foreign immigration, and whether we are to regard it as desirable or not desirable; and, secondly, if we regard it as not desirable, what steps should be taken, if any, to check it? My Lords, I hardly think there can be any difference of opinion with regard to the first question. It is surely undesirable that this country, or, at any rate, some large cities in this country, should become the receptacle for the refuse population of other countries. This increased foreign immigration is undesirable both from an economic and social point of view. It is undesirable economically because the competition between British workers and workers of this imported type is not an equal one. The latter can live upon a wage, as my noble Friend has said, upon which an English workman would starve, and the result, therefore, must be either that the British, workers are driven out of those employments which are affected by this competition altogether, or that, in the case of the women workers, they are forced to supplement their earnings from other sources. My Lords, this is by no means an imaginary danger. Statistics prove that alien labour has already secured a monopoly of certain industries, and the result, as testified by those who have studied this subject upon the spot, is that in the case of many seamstresses in East London even worse results than want of employment have ensued. My Lords, on purely economic grounds, then, it seems to me that some restriction upon this continued alien immigration is urgently needed. Even the strongest advocates of Free Trade would, I should think, hardly contend that Free Trade principles should be pushed to the extent of driving certain sections—large sections—of our working classes into pauperism, or worse, and of replacing them by foreigners of a very low and degraded type. But, my Lords, on social grounds the argument seems to me even stronger. Alien immigration of this kind not merely makes it more difficult for our working classes to gain an honest and adequate livelihood, but it also introduces a very deteriorating and demoralising element into our whole social system, for these alien paupers, my Lords, come, as a rule, to stay. They come to settle, to bring up families, to intermix, to intermarry; and this means, necessarily, a lowering of the whole moral and social standard of the population of those districts in which they settle—a lowering which is greater or less according as their numbers are greater or less. It would, for instance, be a very serious matter if the type of population which is now to be found in many districts in the East End, where there is a strong alien element, were to become at all a common type in the poorer districts of our large cities. It would mean, my Lords, that those classes would become, to a great extent, non-English, in character, and that, both in physique and in moral and social customs, they had fallen below our present by no means elevated standard. Well, my Lords, it only remains for me to consider the second question to which I have referred. Granted that restriction of some kind is necessary and desirable, is such restriction obtainable by legislative means? It seems to me that there is one conclusive answer to that question. Every other country which has had to face the same problem has dealt with it by legislation, and there is nothing, so far as I know, in the conditions of this country which precludes it from following their example. Take, for instance, the case of the United States. As your Lordships are aware, restrictive legislation is in force there, and in the year ending June 30th, 1897, over 1,500 emigrants were, under the provisions of the American law, sent back from the United States to the ports from which they came. My Lords, it might be said that the insignificance of that number, when compared with the total number of immigrants into that country, points to the conclusion that the Act is only partially in force; but, my Lords, it must be remembered that the chief effect of legislation of this character is to be found rather in its deterrent influence than in its direct application. Shipowners and shipping companies will think twice before they ship pauper aliens, if they know that they may be put to the trouble and expense of taking them back again. Moreover, my Lords, under the American Act of 1893 intending immigrants are subjected to a physical examination before sailing, and the commander of the ship and the surgeon have to certify to the United States Consul that in no case do they come within the prohibition of the law. This regulation, again, must be taken as causing a considerable reduction in the total number of those who would otherwise have migrated. It is possible, my Lords, that such a provision might be useful here, but that, of course, and the other details of my noble Friend's Bill, are questions for consideration in Committee. For the present we need only concern ourselves, I think, with the broad principles upon which this Bill is based, and believing that those principles are just and sound, and that the objects which my noble Friend aims at are highly desirable, I trust the House will accord a Second Reading to the Bill.


My Lords, I confess I was somewhat surprised that the noble Earl closed his speech without explaining to us why this was not a Government Bill. Two years ago this subject was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne as one upon which the Government intended to legislate. Now, at the commencement of the present Session, the Speech from the Throne, after pointing to certain Measures with which the Government, one may say, undertook absolutely to deal, mentioned a number of others which it proposed to deal with "if time permitted," and we quite understood that this Measure was not to be found in the latter category. This seems to me to be eminently a Measure to be dealt with by the Government, in view of the difficulties with which the question is surrounded, and which have been touched upon, but not in any way attempted to be solved by, the noble Earl, who said they were matters entirely for Committee. I venture to think this is a Measure which ought to be in the hands of the Government, and which ought not, in view of the fact that the Government have committed themselves to legislation on the subject, to have been left for introduction by a private Member. The question is no doubt one of great importance, and in saying what I have said I am in no way complaining of the noble Earl having introduced it to the House. I may say, further, that as to the right of the Legislature to deal with the question there can be no doubt whatever. Apart from the difficulties which may arise from such a scheme, and the manner in which it is to be carried into effect, and the operation which it may have in directions uintended, there are certain categories mentioned in the 3rd clause of the Bill as to whose exclusion from this country being beneficial there cannot possibly be two opinions. The third section of the Bill deals with several named classes. There are those aliens who are idiots or insane. Well, I do not suppose that anybody would question that, apart from any difficulty involved in the operation, it would be perfectly right that we should not permit insane persons or idiots, who are aliens, to be brought to this country—that their introduction here cannot possibly be a public advantage, and may well be to the public detriment. So, again, with regard to persons suffering from dangerous or infectious disease. I do not suppose anybody would question that it is extremely desirable that a person suffering from such diseases should, if possible, be excluded from the country, and that the peril arising from their spreading these diseases should be as far as possible guarded against. There would probably be the same absolute agreement as regards persons likely to become a public charge. It may be said that the country is thoroughly entitled, and could be said to act in no spirit of illiberality if such persons are excluded. I have dealt with all except one category named—a pauper other than a person likely to become a public charge. It is in regard to that particular class that I imagine most difficulty would be felt. What, exactly, is a pauper? What is the class intended to be covered by a provision of that description, and how are they to be discriminated? It is said that one may leave the whole of the details of a Bill of this description for subsequent consideration; but when a Bill in these terms was before the House on the last occasion some very judicious remarks were made by the noble Duke who is now Lord President of the Council. He pointed to the fact that there had been some inquiry into this subject by a Committee of the House of Commons, and incidentally that there had been some reference to it before a Committee of your Lordships' House. But he said at that time that— After all the inquiries that have already been made, we are not yet in a position adequately or wisely to deal with that class (destitute aliens). We require still further investigation. He then pointed to the investigations that had taken place, and concluded by saying that in his opinion a small commission would be a more practical and useful body to conduct such an inquiry than a Committee, and his suggestion was that before legislation there should be an inquiry by such a commission. I apprehend that the state of things now is not absolutely different from what it was then. The amount of immigration may be slightly more, but the situation is substantially the situation that then existed. There has been since that time no further inquiry, and we are in possession of no more information than we had when the noble Duke made that speech. It seems to me there is a great deal to be said in favour of further inquiry before this legislation is proceeded with, because one wants exactly to see what is to be its scope, and how the proposed prohibition is to be carried into effect. It is obvious that a measure of this sort affects many interests. The only provision in this Bill is that an inspector is to be enabled to inspect immigrant passengers and prevent the landing of any alien who, in his opinion, is a pauper. Now, how is an inspection to enable an inspector to ascertain whether a person is an immigrant alien pauper? He may believe him to be an alien, but how is he to ascertain merely by an inspection, and that is all that is proposed? The noble Earl has referred to the law which prevails in America. The law is easy of enforcement in America, as the immigrant paupers arrive on a very limited number of vessels, which, of course, cross the Atlantic, and put in at a limited number of ports. But manifestly the problem which presents itself there in different to that which presents itself here, where we have passengers arriving day and night at a great number of ports, after a voyage of perhaps a couple of hours. Their examination would surely cause great inconvenience to the general passenger traffic to and from this country. If this Bill is to be effectual it will affect a large number of people, because you will have to make your inquiries broad enough to obstruct to some extent the passage of people who turn out not to be pauper aliens. You cannot on investigation determine who are pauper aliens, without investigating a great number of eases beyond those who are intended to be affected by legislation of this description. It seems to me that there is an immense practical difficulty, and that the mode in which that difficulty can be met, whether it can be met without introducing evils of a very serious character, has not been made the subject as yet of investigation. This is a very important subject, and it is one upon which, without information, it is difficult to determine how far legislation of this sort, in the circumstances of this country, is really practicable and desirable. My Lords, I assume that a person is intended to be excluded in all cases under this Bill, although he may be a perfectly able-bodied man, and in a condition to gain his own livelihood, unless he has some means beyond his labour or the possibilities of labour. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) shakes his head, but that, is one of the difficulties. The section says "a pauper, or a person likely to become a public charge." The latter are separately dealt with, and, therefore, I apprehend that paupers are those who are not likely to become a public charge.


A pauper is a person who has already become a public charge.


That would be a person who has already been in this country and become a public charge or become a public charge somewhere else; but that would not touch the great bulk of those with whom the noble Earl desires to deal, or who come to compete with the labour of this country. That is a construction which would limit the operation of the Bill, and defeat the object for which it is intended. The observation of the noble Marquess has suggested the extreme expediency of such an inquiry as the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council referred to on the previous occasion—namely, an inquiry as to the classes who ought to be dealt with, and how they can practically be dealt with by legislation of this kind. How can inspection enable the question to be answered whether a man is an immigrant, and, next, whether he is an immigrant who ought to be admitted or excluded? My Lords, I do not think there can be any difference of opinion that there are very considerable evils connected with the immigration of poor persons into this country. I do not at all dispute many of the observations and statements which have been made by the noble Earl with regard to that; but when you are dealing with the question of the effect of the presence of these aliens upon the condition of the working classes of this country, I do not think the problem is nearly so simple as it appears to the noble Earl. It does not follow that the exclusion of these immigrants would lead necessarily to an increase of profitable labour for the working classes of this country. It might, on the other hand, tend to its diminution, and I will explain why I say so. There can be no doubt that a very large amount of the labour of these immigrants is devoted to the making of clothes; and by means of their cheap labour there has been a considerable increase in our export trade in ready-made clothes during the last 20 or 30 years. If the exclusion of these aliens would enable that trade to remain, and to remain in the hands of British, workmen, the British workmen would, of course, benefit; but, my Lords, it does not follow that this would be the result. If the cheap labour were no longer available, the trade might collapse, and it is perfectly conceivable that you might exclude those who have been so working, and yet have no greater wage fund with which to pay the workmen of this country. But there is another consideration. The fact that the clothes are made here has the effect, almost certainly, of causing a larger manufacture in this country of the materials from which the clothes are made, and the materials, for example, with which the clothes are sewn. If you were to destroy the export trade in ready-made clothes, the result would be that those engaged in the manufacture of the cloth, etc., would be seriously affected. Obviously, the money value of the cloth and materials is greater than that of the labour used in making these cheap clothes; so that, on the whole, the working classes of the country might suffer from the destruction of the trade. That is the difficulty of touching any such question as this without full consideration. It maybe said that this question of the immigration of aliens is a serious one in the East End of London, although the number is not large in respect to the total population. That is true, but I do not know whether it would be much satisfaction to the working classes in other parts of the country if you were to say that because of that evil in particular parts of London you were going to take a step which might on the whole diminish the wages which the working classes throughout the country may receive. I am not, for a moment, pretending to dogmatise on this subject, but the problem is not so simple as has been suggested. The matter goes deeper. I understand that the export trade in ready-made clothing amounts to many millions a year, and that it is almost entirely curried in British ships. It is, therefore, manifest that if you interfere with this trade you injure not only shippers but shipbuilders, because, of course, the number of ships required depends on the amount of the carrying trade. Therefore, under the belief that you were restricting unfair competition, you might be doing more harm than good to the working classes. There still remains the social question, which I do not wish to ignore. I do not deny that this question deserves thorough consideration, but the object of my observations is to point the moral which the noble Duke brought before the House on the last occasion—namely, that this subject is a very difficult one, and deserves careful inquiry before we commit ourselves to legislative action in the matter.


My Lords, I should like to say one or two words on this Bill, because I represent, on the London County Council, a constituency in the East End of London. I have thought it my duty to find out whether the noble Earl who introduced this Bill is right or wrong in what he says is the opinion of the East End on this question. Now, my Lords, the Secretary to the Board of Trade has stated, with a great deal of confidence, "certain facts," as he calls them, but, my Lords, I have no very great trust in the facts of the noble Earl. The noble Earl, in the first place, appears to be perfectly convinced, and he thinks the House ought unanimously to agree with him, that the class of persons who would come under the definition of "destitute aliens" are a class of persons who are the least capable and the least efficient of the population; but if this Bill had been in operation 200 years ago, and the Huguenots had been prevented by it from coming into England, the British nation would have been very much poorer to-day. I do not believe that the great majority of thinking people in the East End of London are at all convinced that, it you had legislation of this kind, most of the people it would keep out would necessarily be the least efficient and the least desirable. The noble Earl goes on to say that these destitute aliens form themselves into colonies of their own. Yes, my Lords, to a great extent they do, and to a great extent this is beneficial, as the noble and learned Lord has pointed out, to British industry. I will give your Lordships an instance of that. I was a member of the Sweating Committee, which took a great deal of evidence on this subject. It was elicited that a certain class of work, notably in the boot trade, which Englishmen, for some reason or other, could not or would not do, was done by these destitute aliens, and that a great impetus was given thereby to the leather trade. There is another matter. I do not myself attach so much importance as the noble Lord to the suggestion that we get our work done cheaper by these destitute aliens. The evidence before the Sweating Committee showed that while it was true that when they first came to this country they accepted low wages, they were, when they had gained experience, just as keen as other people to obtain the highest wages possible. Now, my Lords, we really come to the crucial point. Is the noble Earl who introduced this Bill right in saying that there is a strong feeling on this matter in the East End of London? I have done the best I can to find out what the feeling is in the East End. I have gone to Toynbee Hall, in the middle of Whitechapel, where, if anywhere, there ought to be a strong feeling against destitute aliens, and have, on two occasions, addressed a working-class audience there, open and free to everyone, on the subject; and on both occasions the room was packed, and the result of the voting was two to one against any restrictions whatever to the immigration of destitute aliens. I do not say there is no feeling in the matter. No doubt the minority who voted in favour of restriction agreed with the noble Earl, but I think we ought to have more information on the subject before legislating. With regard to the question of sanitation and overcrowding, surely there are other means of preventing these evils. It is said that a large number of these people are ultimately charged on the rates; but as most of them are Jews they are taken care of by Jewish societies, and there is hardly an instance in the East End of London of a Jew being charged on the rates.


My Lords, I want to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having discovered a truly cast-iron Tory Measure, and on reverting to the principle of the Land Act of 1881, which they are so fond of. The noble Earl who introduced this Measure laid great stress on what I, as an Irishman, may call the "rise in rint" which has been brought about in the East End of London by the immigration of destitute aliens. He said that rent had gone up from 6d. to 5s. in some instances. That struck me as a very large rise. I wish we could get a rise like that in Ireland. I should like to ask the noble Earl how a pauper pays this 5s.? The noble Earl, the Secretary to the Board of Trade, talked about there being desirable immigrants and undesirable immigrants. I suppose that is the fault of human nature. I should prefer them of the Senior Wrangler class, and done over with rose water. I do not like the principle or the methods of this Bill. I think this country has gained a great deal by the immigration of aliens in former years. It is said that the immigrants of former years were not of the low and degraded class to which the present immigrants belong, but how are you to ascertain what their class is on their landing? I have no doubt many of them turn out very valuable people. This Bill is part and parcel of that horrid legislation that was inaugurated in 1881, which some people call motherly, and others grandmotherly, and under which no one can stir to the right or to the left without the permission of the State. If it comes to a Vote, I shall have very great pleasure in voting against this Bill.


My Lords, I am a little puzzled at the various grounds of objection to this Bill. The noble Lord who represents the county Council in this House has put forward two grounds of objection to the Bill. One is that if the Bill had been in opera- tion at the time we might have rejected the Huguenots. The other was that he himself had addressed two meetings at Toynbee Hall, an institution of very advanced political proclivities, I believe, and that at those meetings he found that two-thirds of the assembly agreed with himself. I am surprised that the proportion was so small. I do not think that either of these two grounds can affect the attitude of the House towards this Bill, or be said to be adequate reasons for dealing in a hostile manner with it. The noble Lord who has just sat down appears to object to the Bill because it is one on the lines of the Land Act of 1881. I have the strongest possible objection to that Act, and have always been prepared to join in any reasonable denunciation of it, but I cannot see what it has to do with this Hill. As to the objection of the noble and learned Lord opposite, that this Bill is introduced by a private Member of the House, the noble and learned Lord has tried to fasten upon us a set of formulas which has grown up in the House of Commons from the very nature of their procedure. The Government must have the control of the business of that House. That control is increasing every year to such a degree that private Members are crying out loudly on the subject. Consequently, it is reasonable that the most important subjects of legislation should be looked for at the hands of the Government, but in this House the Government has no more control over the order of legislation than any other Member of the House, and there is no reason whatever for the idea that that class of Measures, that is to say, all Measures of importance, should be reserved for the action of the Government; and I would remind the noble and learned Lord, especially in respect of social matters, that the principle is of very modern growth. He will remember that the whole of that long series of Acts which dealt with the lot of the labourer in various manufactures were almost all introduced by a private Member—Lord Shaftesbury.


My point is that they had not, so far as I know, been promised in Queen's Speeches.


I am not sure about that. I should think they had. We have not thought fit to bring this Bill forward, because we have not thought that we should be able to find room in the House of Commons for it, but that is no reason why we should not encourage the noble Earl to bring it forward. The last thing necessary in this House is to discourage independent Members from bringing Legislation forward. On the contrary, I wish that by some means we could induce independent Members to take a very much larger share in the deliberative duties of the House. The state of the case is this: every nation in the world has one of two powers—cither the power of absolutely turning aliens from its shores, or the power which they possess in America of forbidding them to enter the country if they are likely to become a public charge. I only use that phrase because it is the most comprehensive of all, and includes idiots, lunatics, and persons suffering from any dangerous, contagious, or infectious disease. I understand that the word "pauper" is added to the words "a person likely to become a public charge," because it indicates that if a person already has been a public charge that is a presumption that he will become so here, and that he had better remain in his own country. There is no doubt that this power is possessed by all countries, and that is, to my mind, a very considerable answer to the demands of the noble and learned Lord for an inquiry. On new and virgin subjects no doubt inquiries are very interesting, and sometimes of great utility; but I confess I look sometimes with despair on the ever-increasing pile of Blue Books on my table on one subject or another, at times so voluminous that they would discourage the most active reader. I remember that one Commission sat for five years, and printed as much evidence as would cover half an acre of land, and no action has yet been taken. Still, no doubt Commissions are valuable things, but they are not the only means of information; and when you find that every other country in the world, whether despotic or democratic, or whether of the Teutonic or Latin races, has this legislation, I think we may say that the inquiry is concluded, and that it is not necessary to delay legislation for the purpose of carrying inquiry further. The noble and learned Lord dwelt upon the difficulty of selecting destitute aliens from the numbers that come, as he expressed it, every day the two-hours' journey across the Channel. I think the noble Lord has not noticed the power given in the Bill to select the ports at which it shall be carried into execution. No one proposes that Folkestone or Dover should be of the number, because it is not there that the number of destitute aliens is really formidable. There are other ports in the country, which will readily occur to the mind of the noble Lord, where such aliens come in considerable numbers, and not many other passengers. It appears to me that this legislation is wise and desirable, and I shall certainly support my noble Friend for this reason: that the number is increasing of those chargeable to the rates. The noble and learned Lord dwelt very much upon the politico-economical question of whether it would save British workmen from competition. That is an important consideration. It has had its due weight with the advocates of the Measure, but it is not the only—I doubt if it is the most important—consideration. The evil is that these destitute aliens are concentrated on particular portions of the community, upon particular parishes, and that they weigh down the rates where the rates are already a heavy burden. I am told—and this is an answer to the noble Lord who spoke last but one [Lord Monkswell]—that in 1897 980 aliens were relieved in St. George's-in-the-East, of whom 908 were Russian and Polish Jews. Now, that seems to me to dispose of the contention that the Jewish community relieves them all. We are the only country which undertakes as a necessary obligation the maintenance of those who are destitute, and we conceive that we have a right, which we ought to exercise, to refuse to have the destitution, the abject destitution often, of other countries thrust upon our shores, to add to the obligations with which we have to deal. The rates are hard enough as it is. I know no more helpless, no more pathetic figure in our present community than the English ratepayer. If you read the Statutes you would imagine that he had unlimited power of protecting himself. In reality, he has no power whatever. Boards have been called into existence, whose chief duty appears to be to pile new burdens on his shoulders, and his inability to combine is so great that he is at the mercy of every spoiler. The rates are rising, rising, rising, and many philanthropic members of the community think there is no better way in which they can spend their time than in discovering new modes by which new rates can be laid upon the ratepayer. I wish, at all events, to save him from a burden which he ought not to bear. He ought not to bear the destitution which had its origin in foreign lands, and which is due to the social and political government of those lands; and my desire to do that is not diminished when I look at the circumstances of the world at large. It is evident that the power of communities to deal with the burdens which political circumstances put on them is diminishing rather than increasing, that the roll of destitute persons in every foreign country, or almost every foreign country, is becoming larger and more formidable, that the difficulty of struggling against taxation, which is constantly increasing, is rising higher and higher, and that under the pressure of that weight they seek lands where there is greater prosperity, and more chance that industry may flourish. That is the danger which is constantly growing. I cannot see on the horizon any Louis XIV. driving any Huguenots to our shores, but I do see political arrangement and political aspirations of which the effect is to increase the burdens and fetter the industry of the people, and to augment the number of those who seek in flight from their native shores refuge from the evils forced on them by political circumstances. I should be glad if time permitted that we should grapple with this evil at once. It may be that we shall not be able to do so, but I must say that it is an evil, not very large in extent—for it practically applies in force to a few parishes only—but it is an evil of a very real and genuine kind, to which the attention of the social reformer ought to be drawn, and with which I think Parliament ought, at the earliest possible opportunity, to undertake to courageously deal.


My Lords, the closing sentences of the noble Marquess's remarks were, no doubt, very impressive, but I cannot help thinking that the considerations he put with so much weight before the House are rather of too much magnitude to apply to what, after all, is but a small evil, if it be one at all. It is impossible to believe that the burdens of this country, no doubt heavy enough, are really largely and sensibly increased by a certain number of aliens who come here and are unable to get their own livings. The question is, and I think it is by no means clearly proved, whether, when the balance is struck, it is really to our disadvantage to allow aliens to come into this country. I am myself inclined to believe that it is by no means a disadvantage to the country to receive, at all events, a certain amount of foreign blood from time to time. But, my Lords, one argument was used by the noble Marquess from which I dissent altogether. I never before heard it laid down as a general proposition that where foreign nations are agreed upon some particular matter this nation ought necessarily to follow their example. There are many things as to which foreign nations are in agreement, whilst this country always has taken, and I hope always will take, a different view. I must confess—looking to the great differences between different countries, their varied interests, their different forms of government, and the different condition of their people—I do not attach very great weight to the measures which they may have taken on this subject. Other countries are, of course, the best judges of their own interests, but it is our business to determine for ourselves what our interests demand, having regard to the circumstances of our population. My main contention is very much the same as that of my noble Friend near me. When you have to deal with a very complicated matter, which is not urgently pressing, which is controversial, and which admits of considerable diversity of opinion, it may be wise to have it investigated by a Commission or Committee. In the circumstances, I think it would be far better not to pledge ourselves to the Second Reading of this Bill before we possess the information showing that such a measure can be safely and wisely passed. For these reasons, although the Bill contains some provisions to which nobody can object—for example, the provision for the exclusion of lunatics—I am disposed not to agree to the Second Reading of this Bill.

Halsbury, E. (L. Chancellor.) Ashbourne, L.
Bagot, L.
Devonshire, D. (L. President.) Balfour, L.
Belper, L.
Cross, V. (L. Privy Seal.) Blythswood, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Grafton, D.
Rutland, D. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Westminster, D. Chelmsford, L.
Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.) Cheylesmore, L.
Churchill, L.
Hertford, M. Colchester, L.
Lansdowne, M. Colville of Culross, L.
Salisbury, M. Connemara, L.
Crawshaw, L.
Pembroke and Montgomery, E. (L. Steward.) de Ros, L.
Erskine, L.
Farquhar, L.
Lathom, E. (L. Chamberlain.) Harris, L.
Heneage, L.
Camperdown, E. Herries, L.
Carnwath, E. Howard de Walden, L.
Clarendon, E. Iveagh, L.
Cranbrook, E. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Denbigh, E.
Derby, E. Lawrence, L.
Dudley, E. Llangattock, L.
Egerton, E. Ludlow, L.
Feversham, E. Monk Bretton, L.
Gainsborough, E. Morris, L.
Grey, E. Mount Stephen, L.
Hardwicke, E. [Teller.] Newton, L.
Mar and Kellie, E. Norton, L.
Mayo, E. Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)
Morley, E.
Romney, E. Pirbright, L.
Rosse, E. Poltimore, L.
Stanhope, E. [Teller.] Rathmore, L.
Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.) Rowton, L..
St. Levan, L.
Waldegrave, E. Sherborne, L.
Sinclair, L.
Falkland, V. Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Knutsford, V.
Llandaff, V. Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)
Tollemache, L.
Aldenham, L. Ventry, L.
Amherst of Hackney, L. Windsor, L.
Ripon, M. Burghclere, L.
Carrington, E. Herschell, L.
Chesterfield, E. [Teller.] Hobhouse, L.
Crewe, E. Leigh, L.
Kimberley, E. Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)
Spencer, E. Monkswell, L.
Stamford, E. Reay, L.
Ribblesdale, L. [Teller.]
Aberdare, L. Wandsworth, L.
Barnard, L. Welby, L.

Bill read the second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday, June 14th next.