HL Deb 07 February 1899 vol 66 cc6-34

delivered the Report of HER MAJESTY'S MOST GRACIOUS SPEECH from the Throne.

* THE DUKE OF BEDFORD (who wore the uniform of a Lord Lieutenant)

My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne. In so doing I am conscious that I stand in need of a very full measure of that kindness and consideration which it is your Lordships' custom to extend to those who address this House for the first time. I shall not presume to detain your Lordships longer than is consistent with the importance of the duty now before me. Your Lordships will desire to offer your respectful condolence to Her Majesty and the Royal Family upon their sudden bereavement. My Lords, once again Her Majesty's Speech is able to announce friendly relations with all Foreign Powers. There are circumstnces fresh in your Lordships' recollections which make this announcement especially welcome. It is true that there has been no rupture of the peace which prevails among European Powers; yet last year can hardly be described as a peaceful period. On the contrary, there have been moments when the efficiency of our Army and Navy appeared likely to be tested by active service. In the case of the Navy, the original programme, described as colossal, was subsequently exceeded to keep pace with the activity of other nations. We did not wait long for the result; a few months later we stood, as we believed, on the verge of war, yet there was no scare about the Navy. With your Lordships' permission on this point I will venture to quote the words used by Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon. Sir Nowell Salmon said: I may say that for the first time in my memory the nation has been brought face to face with the prospect of war without suffering from a war scare, and this, I have no hesitation in saying, the nation owes to the able administrators we have at our backs. Those words, my Lords, coming from so distinguished an officer, form a most convincing tribute to the efficiency of the Navy and the ability of its administrators. Your Lordships will greet with satisfaction the precedent which has been created by the filial act of the Cape of Good Hope in contributing towards Her Majesty's Navy. As regards the Army, the Estimates of 1898 provided for a very considerable increase in the number of our troops. I would also remind your Lordships that Her Majesty's military forces were exercised last year in manœuvres on a scale never before attempted in this country. But, in spite of service abroad and manœuvres at home, there is yet one part, and a most important part, of our military system which remains untried. I refer to mobilisation. I believe that for the last ten years the War Office has been engaged in perfecting schemes of mobilisation, but however theoretically perfect these plans may be, practically they are untested. It is out of the question to attempt to mobilise on a large scale, but possibly during the present year, in some one district, the system might be completely worked out in every detail. Some of our troops have seen service abroad. Two campaigns have followed quickly upon each other. Both have been entirely successful, reflecting the greatest credit on all concerned, from the Generals in command to the last-joined soldiers. I will not attempt to compare these two campaigns from the point of view of military science. The policy which dictated the war on the North-West Frontier of India was in this country imperfectly understood, and consequently the national enthusiasm was but little aroused. Yet, my Lords, when we remember that the campaign was carried on under the most trying conditions of climate and of country, and that it was conducted against an enemy who for more than two months scarcely allowed an hour of the day or night to pass without keeping some part of our forces under a murderous fire, your Lordships will recognise that the soldiers of the British and Indian Armies who were engaged, responded nobly to severer trials than fell to the lot of their comrades in the Soudan. In the campaign upon the Nile there were dramatic elements which seized irresistibly upon the popular imagination. The issues were broad and simple, like the features of the country which was the scene of the operations. The fate of General Gordon, the steady training of the Egyptian soldiers to avenge the man who gave his life for their service, the slow concentration of forces, the gradual advance, the swift and overwhelming blow which avenged Khartoum and swept away every trace of the Mahdi's power. All this, my Lords, gave to the events of that campaign the sequence and the dignity of a mighty tragedy. Your Lordships will welcome the restoration of the Soudan to Egypt—and a Soudan free from that complicated control which impedes the Administration at Cairo. I will not dwell upon the one incident which, threatened for a moment to mar the triumph of Omdurman. The acute phase of the Fashoda episode has been closed in a manner creditable to both nations concerned. I trust that, as a happy outcome of this regrettable incident, the future action of the French Republic may be guided by a truer conception of the British character. In the Near East, at the beginning of last year, the aspect of affairs was threatening. Happily the danger was averted by the Concert of Europe. In December the last Turkish soldier left the Cretan shore. The action of the combined Powers, though slow, has succeeded, and there has been no rupture of the European peace. Your Lordships will be pleased to hear that at length there is a prospect of peace and order being permanently established in that Island. For these results, my Lords, I feel we are largely indebted to the noble Marquess at the head of Her Majesty's Government. In our Eastern Empire, India has passed through the stress of famine, of war, and of plague. All praise is due to Lord Elgin for successfully grappling with these three great evils, but, my Lords, those visitations have made their mark. Now more than ever is needed that touch of sympathy to which the Indian people so readily respond. A few years' residence in India taught me that more depends on kindness, and on the method of doing, than on the thing done. The splendid welcome accorded to Lord Curzon is largely due to the fact that India knows that he is in sympathy with her troubles, her genius, and her legitimate aspirations. It is a land of surprises and marvels. It is marvellous how the country has recovered from the plague and the famine. Surprises, too, must come. It is unsafe ever to say that the Indian horizon is clear. We must judge our Viceroy and his officers, not by the occurrence of surprises, but by the readiness with which they meet a sudden storm. Turning to the Far East, we find a new Power appearing on the scene of the world's politics. The United States of America, as the result of their war with Spain, have undertaken Imperial responsibilities in the administration of the Philippine Islands. It is impossible to predict the bearing which so important an event may have on general politics in the future, or on the internal politics of America itself. Your Lordships will have noticed with satisfaction the disposition of the United States to respond to the friendly feelings for many years entertained by Great Britain towards the Anglo-Saxon race in the New World. It is in the Far East that the policy of Her Majesty's Government has been most sharply criticised. Yet, my Lords, if the noble Marquess had followed the policy of his critics the consequent complications with certain European Powers might have given a wholly different turn to the solution of that question with which we were suddenly confronted on the Nile. Your Lordships will, I think, agree that what we want in China is neither war nor territory, nor a complicated Protectorate, but trade. My Lords, we have lately constructed a railway from Cairo to Khartoum. We are justly proud of that work. We look to it to bring trade and civilisation into the interior of Africa, but this railway is nothing in comparison with the railways of Russia, carrying trade and civilisation across Asia. Your Lordships are aware that there are two great Russian railways in Asia. One line passes through the heart of Central Asia to the Afghan frontier, the other, crossing Siberia, will ere long join Petersburg to the China Sea. The Trans-Siberian line, in round numbers, s 5,000 miles long, and is the result of a policy persistently pursued for the last forty years. My Lords, is it reasonable to expect that Russia will refrain from reaping every legitimate advantage from the completion of this stupendous work? No doubt it might yet be possible, at the risk of embittered feeling, to delay and obstruct the expansion of Russia, but, my Lords, we must recognise that the geographical position of the Russian and Chinese Empires is such that Russia must necessarily exercise a dominant influence over Northern China. My Lords, it is with great hesitation that I venture to express any opinion of my own when addressing your Lordships for the first time; but I should look to a friendly understanding with Russia as the means best calculated to promote the interests of our trade with China. I apprehend, my Lords, that the chief obstacle to a friendly understanding with Russia arises from the traditions of Russian diplomacy, which in the past has not readily recognised any conditions as definite and binding; but, my Lords, Russia is now a country of new movements. His Imperial Majesty the Tsar has startled Europe in the midst of her warlike preparations by the issue of his Eirenicon. None of us, my Lords, can fail to appreciate, the nobility of the ideal by which His Imperial Majesty is inspired; yet, so long as the ambitions of different nations and the conflicting interests of commerce remain what they are, I fear we cannot be too hopeful of any direct results from His Imperial Majesty's Message. But one indirect effect may be produced. A great step towards international peace will be taken if Russia in all her diplomatic dealings will set the world an example of the strictest loyalty to her written and spoken words. Twenty years ago it was doubtful if our industrial classes would ever assume the responsibilities or endure the sacrifices inseparable from the maintenance of an Imperial heritage. A few months since, when we were faced by a prospect of war, Her Majesty's Government, strengthened by the patriotic support of the Opposition, and backed by the practically unanimous opinion of the country, proved to the whole world that we are ready now, as in days gone by, to maintain the interests of the Empire whenever and wherever it is necessary to do so. Before concluding, your Lordships will wish to offer to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales your respectful congratulations on his recovery from a dangerous and painful accident. It remains for me, my Lords, to apologise for the imperfection of my remarks, and to thank your Lordships for the forbearnce with which you have received them. I now move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne.

* EARL CAWDOR (who wore the uniform of a Lord Lieutenant)

My Lords, in rising to second the Address which the noble Duke has so ably moved, I have no wish to traverse more than I need over the ground he has already covered, but I am sure your Lordships would expect that some reference should be made by me to that sad loss which the Royal Family have sustained so recently. Her Majesty's subjects have learned that they may always rely upon her for sympathy and kindness in any troubles that may fall upon them, and I am sure that through out the country at large the first feeling to-day is one of sympathy with Her Majesty and the Royal Family in their bereavement. May I say one word with regard to the first paragraph in Her Majesty's most gracious Speech? It appears to me that the campaign in the Soudan will be best remembered, not so much for the gallantry shown by the British troops, of which we, of course, have never a moment's doubt, but for the courage, endurance, and steadiness shown by the Egyptian troops. These troops have shown that they are able and competent to fight alongside the best-trained soldiers of Her Majesty's Forces. The campaign will be remembered on other grounds besides. It will be remembered for the perfection of ad ministration, the mathematical precision, the untiring energy and the fore sight by which it was conducted to its close. My Lords, we have all noticed—and I am sure we have noticed with satisfaction—that the able administrator and gallant soldier, Lord Kitchener, has been entrusted with the work of completing the restoration of peace, order and good government to the vast territories of the Soudan. My Lords, Foreign Affairs are so important, as affecting all classes of this country for trade and all branches of commerce, that I trust they will always be foremost in the minds of the people of this country. But I think ordinary people are inclined often to ask, not so much what is passing in foreign affairs, but, What is it that the Government is doing for me? To what extent is the Government of the day endeavouring to improve my lot? My Lords, we look for an answer to that question in Her Maejsty's Speech and with your Lordships' permission I should like to say one or two words with regard to a few of the Bills that are to be laid before Parliament this Session. First of all, we are promised a Bill for more fully organising the Government of the Metropolis. I do not think, my Lords, anyone can doubt that municipal life in London, apart from the City, which I gather would not be affected by the proposed Bill, and apart from any reference to the work of the County Council, is not as vigorous not as energetic as it is in many provincial towns. It is not quite easy to say what the reason for this may be, but surely it is a remarkable thing that whereas every country town of the slightest importance or of any size at all, is a municipal body, we still find in London large districts, greater in importance than many provincial towns, still governed for certain purposes by vestries. I know not why, my Lords, but there is something in the name of a vestry which does not breate much of life and energy. There is nothing very stimulating in the name "vestry," and if it was for no other reason than to get rid of that name, so far as London is concerned, I rejoice in the introduction of this Bill. Whether the proposed Bill will bring fresh life and vigour to the municipal bodies in London I cannot say, but at all events it appears to me that there is a grievance which should be remedied, and I trust this Bill will be able to remove it. Towards the close of last Session the noble Duke the Lord President of the Council, introduced two Bills to your Lordships' notice dealing with Secondary Education. They were Bills introduced not so much for the purpose of endeavouring to pass them, but introduced, as I think the noble Duke suggested, rather more for the purpose of discussion, and in order that the subjects with which they dealt might be ventilated during the recess. My Lords, no one can doubt, I think, who heard the noble Duke's speech last Session, or who has read it, or who has studied to any extent the report of the Royal Commission, that not alone is Legislation necessary, but that a great deal has to be done before we can say that Secondary Education in this country is on a sound and proper footing. There is plenty of local enthusiasm on the subject of Secondary Education in many towns and counties, but local enthusiasm, unless it is properly directed, may become a very expensive luxury. For instance, we have so many overlapping authorities dealing with the same thing. We have the Higher Grade Board Schools, we have the Technical Schools, and we have the Secondary Schools all attempting to do the same work, and all overlapping one another to some extent, thereby causing waste of power and waste of money. There are, besides those three I have mentioned, the Endowed Schools, which now are overlapped to some extent by the newer Colleges and the newer Universities. All these things directly show that there must be, so far as the carrying on of Secondary Education is concerned, considerable waste of expense and power. In addition to the bodies who deal directly with Secondary Education, we have the Government Departments by whom they are controlled, and with whom they have to deal. And instead of dealing with one Department only, we find they have to deal with the Education Department for some purposes, with the Science and Art Department for other purposes, and also with the Charity Commission. Is it possible to conceive any system which would lead to much greater confusion than that? Surely the noble Duke was right when he said, in addressing your Lordships last Session, that a Central Authority has become an indispensable preliminary to any satisfactory solution of this question! A Central Authority will not do all that needs to be done, but it appears to me that a sound Central Authority is the very best foundation upon which we can hope to build our future Legislation upon this subject. The gracious Speech from the Throne mentions that provisions for simplifying the process of private legislation for Scotland will again be brought before Parliament. This Question has often been debated in your Lordships' House, and those of us who have had the privilege of sitting in another place will remember it as a hardy annual which appeared every year for discussion. I think those who see most of Private Bill Legislation are those who are most keenly alive to the need of some reform. You will have to aim, of course, at the absolute maintenance of Parliamentary control, but you do want, if you can, at the same time to diminish the excessive cost and the long delays of Private Bill Legislation. May I suggest that Scotland is not the only place which is in need of reform of this kind, and may we not hope some reforms may hereafter be carried out in regard to Private Legislation for England and Ireland as well. There is one other Bill to which I would like to refer, and that is the Bill which I understand is to be introduced for the regulation of Limited Companies. Undoubtedly, in the light of what has recently taken place, there is a public feeling that some such regulation is absolutely needed. I do not dispute that for a moment, but to my mind the greatest possible care will be necessary in framing such a Measure, lest you should, by over-legislation, deter the best public men, and men of high standing from taking a leading position among the great commercial undertakings of the country. It would be possible to over-legislate on this subject, though I do not deny that Legislation of some kind is needed. Before I sit down I should like to say a word on the Bill which suggests the controlling of Contracts of Money-lenders. That Bill appeals closely to my own heart. I do not know, my Lords, that it appeals to many in this House, but I am sure it appeals to many outside. I assume this Bill will be in charge of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy, and I hope he will be able to persuade Parliament to pass it. I do not know what the noble Lord's position would be with regard to the money-lending fraternity if he succeeds, but he may be certain of this, whatever his position may be with regard to them, that he will have earned the lasting gratitude of all the impecunious classes of this great country. There are other Bills dealing with many important questions, and affecting many interests and many classes. I do not propose to weary your Lordships by going into them, but, put together and placed upon the Statute Book, they would form a record of which I think the Government would not be ashamed. If anyone will go through the various Bills mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, he will agree that if those Bills can be passed this Session the Government of the day will be able to claim that they have done good work in passing sound and useful Legislation for the benefit of the country at large. I feel I ought to apologise for detaining your Lordships so long, addressing you as I do for the first time. I thank you for the patience with which you have heard me, and I beg to second the Address.


My Lords, my first duty on this occasion—a most agreeable one—is to congratulate the Mover and Seconder of the Address to Her Majesty upon the speeches they have made. I have been long a Member of this House, and I have heard many speeches made by Movers and Seconders of the Address, but I remember extremely few where so much ability and knowledge have been displayed as by both the Mover and Seconder to-day. The Mover dealt, if I may use such a term, with the higher class of politics with a tact, intelligence, and knowledge which must have struck all your Lordships, and I confess I felt some sympathy with the Seconder when I reflected that so much of the ground had been so well occupied. But he did not disappoint your expectations. He touched with great tact, great knowledge, and great good sense upon certain matters of Domestic Policy which had not been referred to by the noble Duke, and I think he also deserves the approbation of your Lordships. The first remark I wish to make is the same as that made by both the Mover and Seconder—an expression of my deep regret at the loss which Her Majesty has sustained, a regret which I am sure will be deeply felt, not only by every Member of the House, but by every person in Her Majesty's Empire. My Lords, the first announcement in the Speech which we have been generally accustomed to regard as almost a matter of form—I mean the friendly relations which exist with all other countries, and which have rightly been referred to by the noble Duke—is on this occasion a sentence, of great importance, because it is no doubt true that during the last few months there was an occasion when it seemed we might be plunged into war. My Lords, I do not think it would be either necessary or desirable to refer specially to the circumstances which led us into that situation. I will only say this, that I am sure no one who has any regard for the interests of the country can but have seen with the utmost satisfaction the announcement that the difficulty with a great nation, our neighbour, has been peacefully and satisfactorily settled, and the more so because we have felt not only the calm and patriotic attitude assumed by our own countrymen, but also we have seen in France amongst those responsible for the Government, and forming and being Members of their Legislature, a temper and tone which are beyond all praise. My Lords, I will only add this one word—I am certain that no man in this country can fail to heartily desire that we should have the most friendly and even cordial relations with our great neighbour. I come then to what naturally has been placed in the forefront of the Speech—I mean the remarkable success which our troops, together with the Egyptian and Soudanese troops, have achieved in the Soudan. The noble Duke drew some comparisons between the achievement of Lord Kitchener's troops and the services performed by our troops in India. Both, I think, are deserving of high praise, and I shall not attempt in any way to institute a comparison between them. But this I will say, that not only was the campaign conducted by Lord Kitchener remarkable for the behaviour of the troops, whether native or British, but it was also most remarkable for the singular wisdom and forethought with which everything connected with that campaign was prepared by Lord Kitchener himself, supported by a man to whom the country owes indeed much—namely, Lord Cromer. My Lords, I do not think I need say more upon that, because the services of Lord Kitchener and Lord Cromer, and of the troops, have been universally and justly praised upon every platform in the country by men of all opinions and all politics. A word now I have to say upon what is a very important and grave matter—our position in the Soudan. In the first place, I am a little perplexed by one sentence in the Speech, the sentence which says that the Expedition against the Dervishes has resulted not only in the fall of Omdurman, but in the complete subjugation of the territories which had been brought under the dominion of the Khalifa. Well, of course, Her Majesty's Government are in possession of information to which we have not access; but it is certainly to me a piece of news that we have completely subjugated the whole of the territory that was subject to the Khalifa. Is it a fact that we have subjugated Kordofan, that we have subjugated Darfur, and the Bahr-el-Ghazel Province? I am not in the least depreciating what I doubt not has been the effect of our victory at Omdurman—that the Khalifa's power has been not only weakened, but that it possibly may scarcely exist—but that we have completely subjugated those regions I should have thought was premature to announce. I gather from this sentence the very important conclusion that if we have not yet subjugated, in the strict sense of the term, these Provinces, it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to completely subjugate them. If so, it would not be, perhaps, altogether in accordance—to a certain extent it may be—with what has been said by some Members of the Government, that the question of Kordofan and the other territories was a matter which would have to stand over for some time. Upon that point I shall be glad to receive some information. Then I wish to draw attention to another very important point—namely, the manner in which it was announced that the Soudan had been taken possession of by the Queen and the Khedive. Now, I am not in what I am about to say attempting to censure in any way that announcement. I do not know enough about it to form a confident opinion. But be it as it may, it must be a very serious step indeed that we should announce that the Soudan is not merely placed, as I read it, under the Khedive of Egypt again, with the aid and with the alliance of Her Majesty, but that it is placed under the Queen herself, and it seems to me that such an announcement must be fraught with very far-reaching consequences. If I have mis-read the announcement the noble Marquess at the head of the Government will be able to tell you what the precise meaning of that announcement is. But looking at it simply, it must mean that we have practically made the Soudan a portion of the Queen's Empire. Though there may, of course, be an explanation on that point, I think I shall be perfectly correct in saying that we have, at all events, now assumed the responsibility of the Government of the Soudan. Putting aside the question of the particular announcement, I am not the least in the world desirous of minimising our victory. I am not in the least desirous of depreciating our power. I am not at all one of those who do not believe that, strained to the utmost, the power of this Empire is far-reaching, and that it will suffice to maintain or extend its territory. But what I wish to point out to your Lordships is this. The assumption of so huge a territory as the Soudan is, involves a responsibility of a very peculiar and serious nature, especially with regard to the troops by which that territory must be occupied. I have admired the conduct, as much as any man, of the Egyptian and Soudanese troops; I do not for a moment question their full fidelity to us and the Khedive; but it will be vain to shut our eyes to this—that there are dangers inseparable from the occupation of a vast territory inhabited by people of the Mohammedan Faith, and by troops which are themselves Mohammedan. That is exemplified most strikingly by our position in India. We know that it is a settled principle in India that you shall not have less than one-third of your Army there composed of British white troops, to control them. Now, I am seems to me impossible to believe that we can be in a permanent position of safety in the Soudan—which I now assume to mean the whole of the Soudan which was subject to the Khalifa—I do not believe you can possibly have permanent security in that country unless you are able to have at your call a body of white troops sufficient, in case any disaffection should arise among native troops to control them. Now, I am well aware that the construction of the railway will make it comparatively easy at any time to send white troops from a distance to Egypt. But I do not know that that would always be sufficient; but still it is a very important consideration. I also do not leave out of sight the fact that the Egyptian troops are not the same body of men as the Soudanese troops; and therein lies a certain amount of security. But I wish to point out this further—that if you are to send from time to time a sufficient body of white troops to the Soudan, that means the keeping of larger forces permanently in Egypt. I think none of your Lordships can be insensible of the facts, first, that our Army, to perform the duties which it has always had to perform, is by no means a large one; and, secondly, it is extremely doubtful whether, without having recourse to measures which none of us would desire to have recourse to, you could obtain a sufficient number of recruits for the Army fit to serve in such climates as the Soudan and India to any considerable extent. Your Lordships who have had to do either with the War Office or the India Office know well the extreme difficulty there always has been of finding men of sufficiently mature age to fill the regiments in India, and if you have, in addition to them, to find men of mature age also for additional regiments for the African Empire, I think it will be putting our forces to a very serious strain. Now, this is not a question of the moment—it is a question of the future; and in making these remarks I have in my mind the striking peroration of the speech which the noble Marquess made on a similar occasion last year, in which he eloquently pointed out that, great as is our power, we may place burdens upon the Empire difficult for it to bear, and, therefore, though it may seem an ungrateful task—and I know it is an ungrateful task—in the moment of victory such as we have achieved in the Soudan to appear in any sense what might be called a prophet of evil, I think it is the absolute duty of every man who takes part in public affairs to clearly place before the country the other side of the case, for this reason; that our nation, like any other flushed with victory, might be easily led to overlook the other side of the picture, and not sufficiently to consider what are the ultimate dangers and difficulties which we may have to face. When we have to face them I believe we will face them bravely and successfully; but still, when you are expanding the Empire by such a vast occupation as the Soudan, I think I am justified in uttering that warning. Now, my Lords, the next thing I wish to touch upon, and which is really germane to a considerable extent to what I have already said, is the proposals of the Emperor of Russia. Now what is the cause of the proposals of the Emperor of Russia—the very remarkable and striking proposals, coming from a man placed in his position? The meaning of these proposals is that he has a sense that the burdens of the armaments laid upon the peoples of Europe have become intolerable, and I agree with the noble Duke that, although the omens may not be very favourable at the present moment for any considerable practical measure arising out of the Emperor's proposals, the indirect consequences of such proposals, made by so great a Sovereign, with so enormous an army as the Emperor of Russia, are not likely to be without considerable effect upon Europe. For my part, I sincerely trust that that effect may be such as to relieve to some extent at least the population of Europe from the tremendous pressure which the armaments now place upon it, and from the great danger there is in the future that those armaments may become so heavy, and press upon the finances of each country so strongly, as to bring about that most dangerous of all feeling—that it is better to bring about a crisis, and that war might be regarded as less onerous than peace. The noble Duke referred in fitting terms to the questions arising in China. We had so much on the subject of China last Session that I will not weary your Lordships with any prolonged discussion on Chinese matters. All I wish to press upon the Government is to give us full information as to the present condition of affairs. When we have received that full information we shall be in a better position to criticise—if criticism is required—the actions of the Government than we are at the present moment. But there is another matter upon which I am very desirous indeed to receive, if possible, some information from the noble Marquess—I mean what has been termed in the newspapers an Agreement with Germany. I am not, of course, aware what that Agreement may be. I feel, as we all must feel, that if that Agreement—and I think from all we have seen we have reason to think that the Agreement has had that effect—has brought about more cordial relations between us and Germany it is a matter upon which we must sincerely congratulate ourselves, because there is no Power in the world, I believe, with whom it is more desirable we should be on more friendly terms than Germany, and none in regard to whom there is so little reason that we should be on unfriendly terms. Therefore, if the Agreement has promoted good understanding with Germany, I hail it with great pleasure, but as I do not know what the Agreement may be, I express no opinion beyond that. Then, with regard to Crete, I must say that the conclusion of that most thorny question has been, I think, a great relief to every Power in Europe; and so far, I think, Her Majesty's Government may be congratulated upon having at last terminated a controversy of which they must have become terribly wearied, and of which they must have earnestly wished to see the conclusion. I am not here bringing an accusation against the noble Marquess, but I cannot help saying that I do not think the Powers of Europe have played a very creditable part in this business. They allowed the matter to drift on until there was a war between Greece and Turkey, which might easily have been averted, and by taking no decisive measures whatever they brought about a state of things in Crete which at last no doubt became so intolerable and so dangerous that, under the pressure of circumstances, they finally made up their minds to take some decided action. I am sorry to think that arose from a riot attended with very serious loss of life to British soldiers at Candia. I think a little blame is due to our authorities there for not having had a larger force at Candia to prevent such an occurrence. But, be that as it may, it was only the riot, followed by loss of life amongst our troops, which practically brought the matter to an issue, and at last the Powers made up their minds to do that which I suppose every speaker in this country had again and again said was the proper thing to do—namely, to remove the Turkish troops from the Island. If those troops had been removed long before, the question of Crete would have been more speedily terminated. It is, I say, a matter of regret that when the Powers of Europe did work together the machinery should have worked so slowly and so very ineffectively for so long a time. There are other questions in the East to which I will not allude, but I sincerely trust that when the Powers come to act they will act with a little more wisdom, courage, and firmness than they did in the question of Crete. But, to turn to a more agreeable subject—the Colonies— there is an announcement in the Speech which is not new to us, of the contribution of the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope towards the Naval Defences of the Empire. That seems to me to be a most auspicious event in the history of our Colonies. Whatever others of my Party are said to have thought—and I think they have had imputed to them things they have not said—I can say I never was indifferent to the great Colonies which we possess. I have always endeavoured to bring about a closer connection between our Colonies and this country. It has always seemed to me that there was reason to expect a time when there would be that closer connection; but what I have always thought, and still think, is that in all attempts to draw closer the ties between us and the Colonies the movement must come from the Colonies first, for if you attempt to force it on it would have the contrary effect. If we wait patiently, and treat them, as we are all determined to treat them, with fairness and justice, they will on their own account approach us. But even if there should be no closer union for other purposes, there should be and must be a closer union for mutual defence, and it is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome the announcement of a serious attempt on the part of one of the Colonies to join with us for mutual defence. That is a step in advance, and it seems to me the best mode of defending the Colonies themselves. We have happily another very favourable omen which has only just occurred—probably from the reason that it has only just occurred, and, indeed, as it is not complete, it does not find a place in the Speech. I am sure everyone in this country will welcome with joy the announcement that there is every prospect of the Federation of the Australian Colonies coming into effect. It may be a piece of conceit, but I cannot help saying that it is very many years since I took the first step in that direction, when, as Secretary for the Colonies, I passed the Bill which enabled the Australian Colonies to join together for the purposes of a Mutual Customs Union. It is true that they never took advantage of the Act, but I mention it to show that in this country there was long ago a strong desire that the Australian Colonies should come together in closer union. I will say one word upon India, not only on account of the mention of it in the Queen's Speech, but specially because of the presence once more among us of Lord Elgin, the late Viceroy. I am sure it must be very gratifying to him to feel that on both sides of the House there is a strong sense of the admirable services he has rendered to the Empire in circumstances of peculiar difficulty which might well have tried any statesman, however experienced in public affairs. My Lords, we have to congratulate ourselves on the present condition of India, except for the unfortunate prevalence of the plague, and, above all, we may congratulate ourselves for the first time on the prospects of relief from financial difficulties. I hear India is likely to have a large and substantial surplus. I trust it will be recognised by some of those who very severely criticised the Measure which we, when we were in Office, passed—a Measure undoubtedly open to serious objection—I mean the change in the law of currency—that some of the changes made in relation to Indian Currency have been justified by the event, for I believe they saved India from a serious financial crisis and gave her time to recover herself and consider what should be the ultimate and fixed basis of that difficult subject—her currency. I shall welcome with great interest the Report of the Committee on Indian Currency, and hope it may lead to the settlement of that difficult matter on a lasting basis. I see a little variation in the Speech in the passage relating to the Estimates, which is rather striking— The Estimates have been framed with the utmost economy that the circumstances of the present time permit. I suppose that means that our already large expenditure will be increased? Perhaps it may mean—of course I do not expect any information in this House on the subject—perhaps it may mean that there is looming in the distance that very unpleasant thing— increased taxation. As to the other Measures I entirely agree that, although they may not be of a very heroic kind, they are not for that reason to be treated as matters of no importance. On the contrary, whilst we, of course, very properly have occupied ourselves with Foreign Affairs, it is not to be desired, although it may be inevitable, that the mind of the Nation should be entirely turned to affairs abroad, and that it should not be fixed on important questions at home. You may _rely on this—it is a mere truism—that the strength of the Empire consists in the contentment and prosperity of our population in these Islands, and anything which affects them cannot be a matter of small importance. Those measures, therefore, which are directed to certain not very large, but still important social reforms are subjects which may well engage our earnest attention. Of course, I do not mean to say that it follows that we on this side should agree in all the methods which may be taken by the Government to carry their views into effect, but on general principles we may agree with them. For instance—to take one subject—that we require a new organisation of Secondary Education, every one of us cordially agrees. Again, when you tell us that you are about to put in a more responsible, a more dignified position, the Vestries of this town, I think that is a matter in which we may all take a lively interest. I do not think myself that the Vestries display in some matters want of energy, but in others I should be glad indeed to see them show a little more activity. We all of us have had that brought under our notice, and I suppose very few people drive through the streets of London without feeling very strongly that the Vestries might be a little more active, and a little more careful to keep their roads in rather better condition. These are matters which I am glad to see brought forward. It is a very modest programme, and I augur from it that Her Majesty's Government may very likely achieve the remarkable result of carrying through all their measures within the limits of the Session. I beg to offer them my best wishes, and to express the hope that some substantial and sensible Legislation will result from their efforts.


My Lords, my first duty is to echo the regret which other speakers have laid before Her Majesty at the great bereavement which has befallen her—a bereavement which she and we feel the more acutely because it has public as well as private consequences and sorrows. I heartily concur in the very cordial reception which the noble Earl gave to the speeches of my two noble Friends behind me. His experience of this House is longer than mine, though my own is of considerable extent; but I do not think I ever heard two speeches moving and seconding the Address which reached so high a level of political and oratorical success. My noble Friend the Seconder of the Address is an experienced politician, and has already made his mark elsewhere. My noble Friend the Mover is new to us in this House, though he bears an honoured name, which appears on almost every page of English history. I only hope that the great grasp of affairs and the singular literary merit of structure which distinguished his speech will adorn many speeches on many important questions in the House hereafter. As the noble Earl opposite told us he could not find anything to say against the domestic part of the Queen's Speech, he will not expect me to do so, and I think I may leave that part alone as not worthy even of his official attention. The other matters he dealt with are of considerable importance, and it is difficult for me to deal with them. I wish often that I was able to give the noble Earl all the information for which he asks, and I frequently envy, although I know, of course, it is in this, country, for obvious reasons, utterly impracticable, the Nation which has something like, say, the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate in America, which could receive in secret the explanations which Ministers would be only too glad to give. The noble Earl has noticed, I think with some objection, the use of the word "subjugation." That appeared to me as rather-hypercritical, and little more than a literary comment.


It was not the word "subjugation" I objected to. What I criticised was the expression that we had subjugated the whole of the territories which were formerly subject to the Khalifa.


That is exactly what I mean. The noble Earl objects to our saying that we had subjugated the whole of those territories. Would it satisfy him if I had substituted' the word "conquered"? I do not think he would be in the least satisfied; yet I would call his attention to a distinguished character in English history named William the Conqueror. He was called the Conqueror, although certainly he had not gone into every part of England and Wales, and though certainly there remained great elements of resistance in various parts of the country to the end of his reign. I used the word "subjugation" in the ordinary sense—that is, we conquered the political Power by which those territories were held. We seized the capital, and we inherited all the authority which the Power we conquered had hitherto possessed. To what extent we are liable to isolated risings in various parts of this large territory I will not undertake to prophesy. It will be some time, I imagine, before we reduce it to the kind of order in which we see Piccadilly and Pall Mall. In the meantime we shall be content with the amount of authority which is usually possessed in a vast territory thinly populated. I do not believe that these individual risings, where they occur, are matters of great importance, but other colonising nations in Africa have had to deal with them. The French are constantly engaged in them. The Congo State knows them very well, and I cannot see that the mere fact that there have been since the fall of Omdurman small expeditions, and small victories disposing of those expeditions, at all justifies the noble Lord in challenging our statement that the victory of Omdurman subjugated the territories of the Khalifa. Then the noble Lord asks us why we spoke of those territories as being the territories of the Queen. There is nothing in any language we have used which would justify the suggestion that the Soudan had become the territory of the Queen.


It is not in the Queen's Speech, but it appears in the Proclamation.


The Queen alone?


No. It says, "The territory of the Khalifa and the Queen."


We hold the dominions of the Khalifa by two titles. We hold them undoubtedly as having formed part of the possessions of Egypt, of which we are now in occupation, but we also hold them by a much less complicated, much older,much-better-understood title—the title of the conquest. They were conquered by the British and Egyptian forces, and I was careful in the first communication I made to the French Government to place our title upon the basis of conquest, because I believed it to be the most useful, the most simple, and the most salutary of the two. But I earnestly repudiate the inference, if any- body be inclined to draw it, that we intended to dispute the title or to commit any injustice towards our ally, the Khedive. We have fully recognised his position. When the noble Lord asks whether we recognise the position of any other Power, I reply to him that we rely upon the title of conquest. Whether the Soudan was a portion of the Ottoman dominions at any time I have great doubts; at least, a very small portion of them was. But whether this was so or not, it had been conquered by the Khalifa, and it had been occupied for thirteen years. But that the result of the Egyptian and the British Army should be simply to revive the claims and titles which events had swept away on behalf of those who took no part in our action is a claim which, I think, cannot be sustained by historical precedent or by International law. We hold it by conquest. The noble Lord asks us if we make ourselves responsible for the whole of the territory. I again refer him to the case of William the Conqueror; I must again refer to the case of all those who, with an invading army, have first conquered the central Power by which a territory was held, and then who have gradually effected the establishment of their own power, the restoration of law and order, and all the benefits which they desire to confer on the population. We shall advance, but we shall require time. I daresay the noble Lord has not exaggerated the difficulty of the undertaking. He has also shown that we have unusual facilities for carrying out the complete restoration of order, and the complete establishment of Government by Her Majesty and the Khedive in the construction of that railway which was so marvellously effected by Lord Kitchener; and I hope that the construction of another railway, not quite so fast as I could wish, coming up from the South will contribute not a little to the ultimate establishment of the state of things we desire to see restored. No doubt there will be difficulties. Expansion is never free from difficulty, and the noble Lord will not charge me with being a fanatical advocate of expansion; but in this case I do not see that we have any choice. It was not we who brought the Khalifa into the field. We did not invite him to destroy Hicks' force, to overrun, to desolate, and to depopulate some of the fairest portions of the Khedive's dominions. It was not we who led him down threatening the South of Egypt; it was not we who kept up that constant preparation which rested like a cloud on the frontier and on the commercial prospects of Egypt. We felt that if we had allowed time to go further, the chances of conquering these great provinces, I do not say might have been compromised, but might have been only attainable at the cost of far greater sacrifices. We were forced by his action to resist him, and that happened in our ease which has happened again and a cram in the history of our Empire, and of all Empires with Frontiers—that they are forced by the weaker populations beyond to strike in their own defence, and the blow which they strike makes them necessarily the undisputed masters of vast territories which they never possessed before. That is what happened to us. I do not say that we should have gone to war for the Soudan, but having, by the war that was forced upon us, become masters of the Soudan I think we should not be acting up to the duty that lies before us if we did not do our best to introduce civilisation and happiness in that country, and to make ourselves worthy of the responsibility we have undertaken. Of course, one of the great difficulties, as the noble Lord has said, is the difficulty of finding troops. As far as my information goes at present —I make no pledge, because I have not sufficient knowledge—but as far as I am advised by those who are capable of advising us, I do not think the strain will be at all severe on the British Army for this purpose. Some slight contribution of force will, of course, be necessary, but I do not think it will be of an important character. I do not think we shall have much difficulty in obtaining the necessary co-operation of forces belonging to the tribes that are more familiar with the country. Look at what has happened by your very side. Look at the Congo State. Everything has not gone there as well as could be wished, but still a very great domination is maintained, and I am told with great financial success. On that there are two sets of opinions: but what is undoubtedly true is that Belgium—a very much less powerful country than Great Britain—has been able to maintain the domination of her King over a territory far larger than the Soudan. I see nothing in the task we have undertaken to fill us with anything approaching to apprehension. Of course, there may be accidents, but, as far as we can see, everything is going, on the whole, smoothly; and, though I repeat that an interval of time is necessary before the beneficent work of our conquest can be achieved, yet, if time is given, I believe the future inhabitants in Africa will have every cause not to regret, but to bless the operations which the noble Lord has criticised. My Lords, the noble Lord asks me some questions, and I have indicated that I am not entirely able to answer all the questions, he has put. The Agreement or communications that have passed between Germany and Great Britain have been of a character favourable to the friendship of these two great Nations, to the rights of all concerned, and to the peace of the world; but I do not think that I should be doing my duty if I gave further details of stipulations which, for the time at least, require no action on the part of Great Britain. I do not think the noble Lord expected to get anything else out of me. He knows the subject-matter too well. Then the noble Lord asks me for a candid statement of our future policy in China. I have often wondered if the people who take the trouble to put these words together ever inquire what they mean. If they mean an explanation of the way in which we are going to pull China to pieces, and establish our own dominion over the whole or a portion of it, I can understand that the question is intelligible, but I do not think it shows any great prevision on their part. Of course, I need only tell them we have no policy. I never had any policy of that kind.


Will you give us any papers on the subject?


I will enquire if there are any. If the noble Lord wants to know what is the destiny which is impending over China I will ask him to reveal to me what is going on in a certain place in Peking, and on a certain island within that place. The future of China does not lie in our hands. It still is in the hands of the Governing Bower of China. Whether the continuance of that power is likely to be prolonged, or whether it is incurring danger, people must conclude for themselves from the evidence brought before them. We have to deal in China as we have to deal elsewhere—with a Government which is a going concern, which is in operation.


Is it in operation?


In a certain way it is, and we have only to take care that the Treaties which have been concluded with us are fully carried out, that the interests of our nation are duly regarded, and that nothing is done either by China or by other nations which can compromise the rights at which I have glanced. Beyond that, the general duty of consulting the interests and the trade of the country wherever the opportunity offers itself, is the only guide we can follow. But that we have in view any policy which contemplates any acquisition of territory or any dismemberment of any Empires in the East is an absurd assumption, and one which certainly will not be entertained by anyone who takes any interest in the course which Her Majesty's Government desire to follow. My Lords, I believe if you care to examine into it you will ibid that during the past year the advantages which this country has gained in Chink are not only greater than have been gained in a similar time before, but are also greater, comparatively, than have fallen to the lot of any other country, and with that result we must be satisfied. The only other matter of Foreign Affairs on which the noble Lord dealt is the question of Crete. Though he admitted that it had been brought for the time to a satisfactory conclusion, he yet grumbled that we had not been able to arrive at that end before. Well, the end I think is very satisfactory. Prince George is established with the hearty welcome of the Cretans of both creeds, who are glad that the previous anarchy should be arrested. So far as he has gone, he has shown, in discharging the duties of his great position, not only great ability and readiness to grasp the facts that come before him, but also that high-minded impartiality which is the most necessary qualification of a ruler placed as he is. I have every ground for believing that he will reconcile, in common allegiance to his over, both the Christian and the Moslem inhabitants. The only fear is lest the Moslem population, owing to panic at the sudden disappearance of the Sultan's authority, may try to seek their fate in other lands. That is the only drawback to the picture we are justified in drawing. Now let me say a word about the delay of which the noble Lord complained. He rather fell into that common form of speech which would make it appear that he thinks that because the six Powers of Europe were concerned they ought to have gone six times as fast as any single nation. The noble Lord seemed to think that the slowness was unworthy of the greatness and number of the Powers concerned. Now, in our humble experience in our English life, we know very well that one person can do a thing very much faster than can two, that two can do it very much faster than three, three than five, and so on. And if the noble Lord thinks that we have been guilty of any extravagant slowness I will ask him to refer to that part of his own speech in which he mentioned with pardonable satisfaction that at some very distant period of his life he had commenced the idea of Australian Federation. I entirely concur with him in receiving with great satisfaction the assurance that that Federation is likely to be carried. I think it will be for the prosperity and happiness of the Colonies, and that it will cement and render more indissoluble, if I may say so, the bonds that bind Australia to this country. But does not the noble Lord see this? There were five other Colonies with which he had to work, and those six Powers did not get on any faster in establishing even such a simple and desirable object as the federation of the Colonies than have done the European Powers which have had to reconcile secular conflicts of several races and two bitterly opposed creeds. I do not think that the noble Lord is entitled to crow over the Concert of Europe. I hope we shall be as succesful as he has been. The only other matter to which the noble Lord referred is the very remarkable invitation which the Emperor of Russia has addressed to all the Powers to meet him in conference for the purpose of diminishing the terrible burden of armaments that is laid upon us, and of attempting to avert the ever-present possibility of war. No one can doubt the purity and grandeur of the motives which have animated the Emperor in making this invitation, and everyone must heartily wish that his anticipations will be realised; but further than that I do not think it is safe to go. The constant increase in armaments which is taking place on all sides at the very time when we are speaking of and prophesying peace is not encouraging to the ideal dreams in which perhaps the Tsar has indulged, and they warn us to prepare for a possible issue less gratifying than that on which he has most naturally and most laudably allowed his mind to dwell. There are many difficulties to be surmounted before any such general benefit can be achieved as that which he has sketched out. I shall myself be heartily pleased if the results of this conference and of these negotiations are capable of achieving a somewhat humbler aim. If by extending the use of the principle of arbitration, we are able to diminish the number of causes by which war can be induced, and if, by humane and beneficent legislation, we can diminish the horrors of that war when it is waged, we shall, I think, have done for our generation a service of which the whole value cannot be appreciated at once, but to which, I think the future inhabitants of Europe will look back with gratitude. And if, as I hope, in that more distant time it is developed to a greater and more perfect end, they will have cause to bless the name of the Sovereign to whose imagination and to whose power and courage this result will, in a great measure, be due. I need not say that we shall be very heartily glad if these results can be in any degree attained. But we must follow the example of other nations, and while these efforts for peace are being prosecuted we must obey the proverb and prepare for war. I do not believe that war is imminent; I do not think that danger of it is so great as it has been during the period which separates us from the time when your Lordships were last assembled. But the causes of war still subsist. The uncertainties and instabilities by which it may be brought on are still in view; passions which provoke it are still untamed; the equilibrium by which it may be finally banished is still far from our sight. Let us give all tribute to those who work for peace, and, while doing our utmost in that blessed mission, bear in mind the dangers and the imperfections of the state in which we still live, and make it certain that to no consideration to others, that to no love of peace which others may entertain, shall we owe the security which past generations have given to us, and which we should be base indeed if we forfeit.


My Lords, it is not my intention to pursue this Debate, but I cannot refrain from taking this, the earliest possible opportunity of expressing the deep regret and bitter disappointment which will be felt, not only in the West Indies, but in Queensland, in Mauritius, and to some degree in India, when it is known that Her Majesty's Speech has preserved an entire silence upon the failure of the Brussels Conference, the opening of which formed so large a part in the Speech of last year; and that Her Majesty's Government has preserved a similar silence with regard to holding out any expectation whatever of any realisation of the hopes which the language of at least one prominent member of Her Majesty's Government led those connected with the Sugar Industries to anticipate.

Question put.

Motion for the Address agreed to, Nemine Disssentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.