THE DUKE OF ROXBURGHE
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. In doing so I avail myself of the ancient tradition of your Lordships' House, which allows this task to be undertaken by even the least accomplished of its Members. I fully realise the difficulties of my position, but gain encouragement when I remember that this duty has been performed under similar circumstances by many noble Lords, who will readily grant me that indulgence which they received in their time. We are assured that our relations with foreign Powers are friendly. This is a familiar term, but none the less comforting in view of the Venezuela difficulty. This difficulty arose owing to the outrages committed on British subjects and British shipping, which rendered it necessary that His Majesty's Government should seek satisfaction and demand a guarantee against a continuance of this state of affairs. To this end the noble Marquess, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when approached by the German Ambassador, whose country had similar causes of complaint, informed him that His Majesty's Government were prepared to take joint action until the claims of both countries had been satisfied. This very natural course has been most 6 severely criticised, and somewhat inaccurately described as a debt. collecting process. It has further been stated that our action was likely to jeopardise our hitherto very friendly relations with the United States. No one can value more highly than His Majesty's Government the friendship of the Government and people of the United States of America; but the friendship of a people so intelligent and so practical is not likely to be secured by an attitude which would appear to indicate on our part any desire to obtain it by unworthy concessions, or by any indifference to the just claims of our own people. I feel confident that they will not regard with unfriendly eyes our efforts to secure for British subjects that justice and redress which they would demand for their own citizens.
The question of the Alaskan boundary is one of great complexity, depending as it does upon the interpretation of a treaty couched in somewhat ambiguous terms, and concluded more than seventy years ago, when the geographical features of that country were very little known. It has, however, of late assumed a more prominent position owing to the discovery of gold in Klondyke, and any steps towards the settlement of a question which might have involved us in serious difficulty with the United States must be welcomed by both countries.
The condition of the European provinces of Turkey has for the last two years given increased cause for anxiety, both on political and humanitarian grounds. It is, nevertheless, satisfactory to note that the great Powers, and especially those two which, on account of their geographical position, are most closely interested and best able to exercise influence in the region of the Balkan States, should have devoted themselves seriously to the task of promoting a better condition of affairs in these sorely-tried districts. I feel confident that His Majesty's Government will render freely every assistance towards the promotion of any well-considered measures for this purpose.
We must all rejoice that in the military measures which we have been forced to take for the security of our Protectorate in Somaliland we have been working in complete accord with the Govern- 7 ment of Italy. The interests of the two nations in that region are identical, and it is earnestly to be hoped that our cooperation there may tend to still further prolong that friendly feeling which so happily exists.
Reference has been made in the gracious Speech from the Throne to the mission of the Colonial Secretary, undertaken with a view of bringing about, at the earliest moment, the reconciliation and union of the Dutch and English races, with due consideration to the interests of the coloured people. The immediate outcome of the right hon. Gentleman's arrival in Natal was the voluntary surrender by that colony of all claim to compensation for losses sustained during the war. As your Lordships will remember, these were heavy, and amounted in all to £2,000,00. Surely this is no mean sacrifice. Proceeding to the Transvaal, the Colonial Secretary discussed with the leading representatives of the mining interest what sum they would willingly undertake to contribute as their share towards the cost of the war. This sum was fixed at £30,000,000, payable in three years, but in return, a guarantee was requested for £35,000,000 to be applied to existing obligations and to the further development of the country. In Cape Colony the Colonial Secretary addressed many meetings, warning Cape politicians of the danger they incurred by allowing the loyalty of their colony to be doubted. The main objects of his mission have already been attained, and the Boers are convinced that not even their natural pertinacity will extract further concessions from Great Britain, whose earnest desire is to welcome them as new partners of the Empire, to protect them in the enjoyment of religious and civil liberty, and to develop the vast resources of their country.
The celebration of the succession of His Majesty to the Imperial Crown of India has been remarkable, not only for the brilliancy of its ceremonies and pageants, but even more so for the cordiality and unanimity with which the Chiefs and Princes of India, and, indeed, all races in that country, have availed themselves of the opportunity of expressing their loyalty to the British Crown, and their gratitude for the benefits they 8 derive from British rule. It is also most satisfying to note that the occasion of these celebrations has been marked by the expression of a confident hope on the part of the Indian Government that they may shortly be able to somewhat alleviate the burden of taxation in that country.
His Majesty's Speech makes mention of a Bill for extending and adapting to the Metropolitan area the scheme of educational reform passed last session. It is a matter for congratulation that, notwithstanding the bitter differences of opinion and somewhat acute controversies which marked the discussions on the Education Bill last session, the new authorities, whether county or municipal councils, are prepared to assume the duties assigned to them in that Act in a loyal and patriotic spirit. The peculiar conditions of the Metropolis, which as to local government differ so materially from those which prevail both in our counties and large towns, render the education problem in London one of no small difficulty. It is earnestly to be hoped that it may not be rendered more difficult by a revival of those controversial discussions which somewhat protracted your Lordships' proceedings last year, but that Members may be prepared to accept the principles of the present Act as having been settled, at least for the moment. I thank your Lordships for the gracious hearing you have accorded me, and beg to move.
§ *THE EARL OF LEITRIM
My Lords, in rising to second the Address I must ask your Lordships to grant me a full measure of that kind consideration which you have always extended to those who have the privilege of addressing you for the first time. Not wishing to traverse the ground so well covered by the noble Duke, I will at once pass to that portion of the gracious Speech from the Throne referring to the question of land purchase in Ireland. The system of land tenure in Ireland—practically that of dual ownership—having been found to lead to litigation, confusion, and inconvenience almost amounting to impracticability, His Majesty's Government is desirous of bringing forward a large and comprehensive measure, sufficiently large to cover the primary object of turning judicial tenants into occupying owners, and especially adapted to meet, 9 as they may arise, the many difficulties which such an operation will entail, and a measure, moreover, which can be expected to accomplish this without protracted delay. It must be a source of satisfaction to your Lordships to know that under the present procedure 80,000 tenants have already purchased their holdings, and that the result has proved a success. But the operation cannot be arrested at this juncture, and further steps are required to terminate the perpetual litigation caused by dual ownership.
Neither landlords not tenants can be expected to expend either their capital or their labour for the improvement of agriculture when every fifteen years it has to be decided in a court of law, by State-paid officials, what return they are to have for doing so, and the country cannot prosper when men's minds are concentrated on a judicial war. The landlords of Ireland yield to none in their love for their country and in the desire that she should prosper and be part and parcel of this great Empire: rejoicing to concur loyally in what is best for her welfare, so long, as it does not mean placing them in such circumstances as would necessitate their leaving that country; so long, as it does not mean injustice. As, however, it has been found desirable to put an end to dual ownerships, it is equally desirable to so effect the change that it may enable those, who have ever been loyal to their Sovereign and their country, to live among and promote the welfare of their own people, with whom, in spite of the adverse circumstances of landtenure, their relations as landlord and tenant have been in several instances of so cordial a nature. It would be wrong of me as an Irishman to neglect to call your Lordships' attention to the tendencey which exists among Irish farmers of subdividing their already small holdings, an evil which the landlords up to now have done all in their power to prevent, and which, in the event of the tenant purchasing his holding, is guarded against until such time as the entire sum of the purchase money shall have been paid, after which date there is no guarantee that a tenant will not sub-divide his holding. Doubtless His Majesty's able Chief Secretary for Ireland will give this matter his consideration.
10 I should like to dwell for a few moments on other interests besides that of land tenure which are occupying the hearts of Irishmen. Industries have been established throughout the country, and the spirit of co-operation for furthering the interests of trade is increasing. From the North and West a debt of gratitude is due for the grant to be expended under the Marine Works Act. This will go far to promote not only the large fisheries instituted there, but also the use of small trading steamers for the conveyance of the produce of the country to the markets of Great Britain, which has proved so successful in other parts. There is also another large opening for the North-west as being specially adapted for inter-communication with America, from which such great benefits can be anticipated. It is these and similar objects, which tend to advance the commercial prosperity of the Empire, that all Irishmen, whatever their political opinions, should have at heart.
There is another Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech to which I should like to refer—namely, that dealing with the Post and Docks of London. That is a question of the most intricate nature, and of vital importance to the commerce of the nation. We may hope that a public trust may be formed with such powers as will enable it to deal with the necessary duties entailed by the vast increase of our trade, and to be responsible for the policy of the river, but, at the same time, to steer clear of all matters connected with private enterprise.
I think the remaining points in the gracious Speech from the Throne require no further comment from me. But, in conclusion, I should like to return to the subject of my fellow countrymen, and to recall to your Lordships' memories the gallant behaviour of the Irish troops in South Africa, which called forth such a spontaneous mark of sympathy and approval from our late beloved Sovereign—so much so that one of the last great acts of her long and glorious reign was to visit their country, where a welcome awaited her such as only Irishmen know how to give; and if the proposed welcome visit of His Most Gracious Majesty to Ireland were to become an accomplished fact, it would go far to bring into closer touch the sincerely loyal hearts of my countrymen with the Throne and the 11 Empire at large. I thank your Lordships for the kind forbearance with which you have listened to my remarks, and beg to second the Address.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne."—(Duke of Roxburghe.)
§ *EARL SPENCER
My Lords, I have to congratulate the noble Lords who were entrusted with the duty of opening the first debate in your Lordships' House in the present session. I can do so with perfect sincerity. We always listen with pleasure to those who for the first time address this House. We do so because, often, we know them personally, or because, more often in the case of older men like myself, we have known their predecessors, and always because we welcome the introduction of fresh blood in our debates. I think your Lordships will agree with me that the noble Duke and the noble Earl acquitted themselves with exceeding good taste and exceeding ability. I would only make this one criticism, that they were too brief in what they said. Their remarks were full of good sense and of admirable quality, and they might have continued them at greater length. One of the noble Lords represents the northern part of Great Britain, and we welcome him here. The other represents the sister kingdom of Ireland, with which I for one have been so much connected. That country has been, and is, strongly represented in this House, and I think its representatives will welcome the addition to their ranks of one who has such large interests in that country and its welfare so much at heart.
It will be my duty to touch on various parts of the gracious Speech from the Throne, but I hope I shall not exceed the limits of such an occasion as the present one. The first remark I have to make is upon a matter of very great importance. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has, on more than one occasion, in answer to Questions which I have addressed to him, dilated upon our relations with Russia and China, and also upon affairs in the Far East. It is of good augury that no reference is made either to China or to Russia in His Majesty's Speech. I trust 12 from that that the information which is at the disposal of the Foreign Office is satisfactory in this respect, and that our relations with Russia and with all the Powers interested in the Far East are eminently satisfactory.
Now, my Lords, I come to a question which for some months past has been occupying most deeply the attention of the nation. I refer to Venezuela. I rejoice with the noble Duke who referred to the settlement of that question. But why has it been such a matter of anxiety? For two reasons, which I shall shortly give. We in this country are very jealous now of anything that might disturb our good relations with the United States of America. We felt that a subject like this might involve great questions between us and that Republic, and we were very anxious that we should not in any way diminish the good feeling which, happily, has sprung up within the last few years between that country and ourselves. There was also a fear that we might, by co-operating with another Power, be led into considerable difficulty. Now, with regard to that, I at once say that, though I know there has been considerable ill-feeling in Germany and in this country against one another, I for one would hail with joy and satisfaction anything which would bring about a better feeling between this country and Germany. Therefore, in the remarks which I make I am not going to say anything that might detract from the good feeling which, I hope, now exists between us. But I must make some criticisms upon these proceedings, because, in my opinion, there are questions upon modes of operations which might lead in future to considerable difficulties. I shall pass over the first cause for which we had to seek reparation from Venezuela. I imagine there are few people in this country who will criticise His Majesty's Government for taking steps to get reparation for certain outrages on ships and on British subjects by that Power. We all agree that that was necessary. But we have some doubt whether joint action in these matters may not, unless very carefully guarded, bring about very disastrous results. In my opinion, His Majesty's Government have been backward in one respect, and that in that respect they have committed 13 an error which to a great extent intensified the anxiety which existed. They have not early enough put us into possession of all the despatches and all the communications which have been made between them and the two Powers. First of all there is the communication with the United States. It was of the utmost importance that we should know that we had a through and complete understanding with that Power before we entered upon these proceedings. Then, with regard to the co-operation with Germany, there are some very important considerations to be kept in view.
It strikes me as an exceedingly difficult thing for two countries to co-operate to make claims—both from their own point of view—on a particular country, and unite absolutely in getting reparation. First of all, there is this point. Have we exactly the same claim to make as the other country? If two countries act together and demand reparation for injuries done to them, each country must know thoroughly what the other country is demanding. It may be that one country may demand things from the Power that has been offending them which the other Power could not possibly give. The last despatches which have been laid before your Lordships may show this, but we do not see clearly how this has been defined and arranged between the two Powers. I must complain of this—I do not say it is the fault of His Majesty's Government—that we only have the later Papers on this subject put into our hands at the very last moment. I certainly found that a friend of mine in the House of Commons had them, but I only found that out when it was too late to refer to them effectually. The actual Papers only came into my hands when I came into your Lordships' House. That puts a great difficulty in our way in considering this question; and I hope some steps will be taken, when important matters of this sort are brought forward, that your Lordships may have the whole information which is given by the Government speedily and in proper time before they have to take up the matter for consideration.
Now, my Lords, with regard to this, I should rather like to ask certain questions. I understand that reparation has often been asked, and has been asked in this case, for injuries done to ships, or property, or the persons of British sub- 14 jects; but on no former occasion, so far as I know, has any reparation been asked for deficiencies in payment by public bonds or railways in a foreign country. I am very doubtful as to how we stand in regard to this. So far as I know, during the last session, in another place, it was always stated that no demands were made on Venezuela for non-payment of bonds, or other matters of that kind. Well, in the Papers which have now been submitted to us I find, as far as I can understand, that is not the case; that we have been demanding, with the Germans, certain payments with regard to the railway bonds of Venezuela. In that respect there is, I conceive, a new departure in the foreign policy of this country. Have we ever sought to recover bad debts for private individuals who may have embarked their capital in consideration of high interest in Venezuela?
I should like to make another remark upon this, although there has been some new light thrown upon it in the despatches issued today—I am surprised that His Majesty's Government did not press earlier for the reference of this dispute to The Hague tribunal. So far as I can make out now the settlement is tripartite. The President consents to pay down certain sums to the two countries for certain claims; for certain other claims there is a mixed commission to be appointed, with an umpire to be appointed by the President of the United States; and, thirdly, there is the reference to The Hague tribunal. I should like to ask, considering the importance of the institution of The Hague tribunal, and the desirability of submitting to it every case that can be submitted by a country without sacrificing national honour—why an earlier reference to The Hague tribunal was not made in this case. I readily admit, and agree, that now certain matters have been referred to that tribunal; but in my view it seems most unfortunate that this was not done at an earlier date. In that case, as I think the noble Marquess states in one of his despatches, a much earlier deliverance from the blockade could have been brought about, and all the dangers and bitterness, and the results of force being used, would have been removed. I merely wish to ask these specific 15 questions of His Majesty's Government, which seem to me of some importance. I repeat that I rejoice exceedingly that this dispute, arising, no doubt, out of just grounds, but really amounting to a very small affair—through it might have given rise to very serious difficulties between us and other countries—has been successfully brought to an end. I sincerely hope that that settlement will be entirely satisfactory, and that it will tend to good feeling being established between this country, Germany, and the United States.
The next point is one on which I can heartily congratulate His Majesty's Government. We know that for many years there have been grave difficulties from time to time with regard to a very difficult question—namely, the boundaries between Alaska and Canada. I need not go into the history of the past; but attempts have been made more than once to come to a satisfactory settlement about that; and I rejoice. to see that, at all events, the United States and this country have now agreed upon referring this question to a Commission. I sincerely trust that that Commission will be able satisfactorily to dispose of this matter, which might raise great difficulty between ourselves and our American cousins. I next see an allusion in the Speech from the Throne to a matter which in years gone by has caused wars and the greatest difficulties in Europe—I refer to the question of Macedonia. I notice that His Majesty's Government promise that Papers will be laid before us. We have had at present very little information about it. At the same time, those who are interested in foreign affairs have probably had before them public Papers from other Governments which throw a great deal of light upon this subject. There is a very interesting Yellow-book which has been issued by the French Government. Anybody who has studied that book will see that a very grave and serious position of affairs has arisen in Macedonia. I am not surprised, after reading that book, to find these words put into His Majesty's mouth—The condition of the European provinces of Turkey gives cause for serious anxiety.My Lords, if you have read these Papers you will have seen that there is abroad in Macedonia a feeling of unrest 16 and dissatisfaction, and a feeling of acute grievance existing, which has not existed to so large an extent for many years past. There have been risings, and lives have been lost in skirmishes between the Turkish constabulary and the rebels. There has been a great disturbance of feeling caused in Bulgaria, where so many people from Macedonia go, and where the interests of Macedonia are very much felt. There are also evidences of a large collection of forces on the part of the Sultan, and also on the part of the Bulgarians. It seems to me there is all the evidence that these Powers consider that a very grave state of things may arise, and that force may have to be resorted to for the quieting of these districts. Anyone who has any interests in these matters, who considers what the Government of Turkey is, will be in despair as to the way in which Turkey fulfils, not only its obligations under such engagements as the Berlin Treaty, but its other engagements as to good governments which it ought to maintain. We hear the news, which seems to be confirmed, that two of the Great Powers, Russia and Austria-Hungary, have made proposals to Turkey with the view to putting an end to the troubles of those unfortunate people who are under Turkish rule in that part of the Turkish Empire. I regard with some satisfaction the indications which are given that His Majesty's Government are inclined to foster the representations of those two Powers. But what the Government say in the Speech from the Throne does not, I must say, inspire me with great hopes; but I sincerely trust that His Majesty's Government will do their very utmost to support those two great Powers, and try as far as they can to moderate and improve the existing state of things in that part of the world.
The next point to which I wish to refer in a very few words is the expedition, which, I regret, is still going on, or is about to take palce—I hardly know which— in Somaliland. We know very little about the business. All we know is that a certain Mullah exercises great power there, and that we intend to attack him and to destroy his power. But, unfortunately, it appears that the Government, or those responsible in that district, did not sufficiently gauge the power of that man, and that an insufficient force was sent out to cope with him, so that we 17 suffered something like what, I am sorry to say, was a reverse. I need say no more; but we should like to know what the present position may lead to. It was not long ago that the Prime Minister made a speech at Liverpool, and he referred to this subject, using words which I cannot help thinking are, or may be, ominous. Among other things he said, after referring to the loss of life and comparing the expedition with another, that the result of the present expedition might be very far-reaching. Those were, I think, his words. But what was the meaning of the words? Are we going to occupy any vast tract of desert? Are we going to employ our forces, many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles in the interior of a wild country of very great extent, and are we going to occupy and hold that country, of which we know very little? I think Parliament has some right and some reason to ask what we are doing there and what we intend to do.
I now come to the more pleasing question of South Africa and the speeches made there by the Colonial Secretary. Now, I should like to say this at once, that personally I do not think it a desirable thing if the heads of our great offices were to become travelling secretaries and were to be continually going to and fro gathering such information as they could in distant parts of the world. At the same time, there are exceptions to the rule I suggest; and we have had a notable instance within our recollection. The last instance, I think, was when the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) whom I am glad to see in the House tonight, and the Prime Minister of that day, went to Berlin and took part in an important conference there. But, as I have said, I cannot approve of those who are responsible to the nation for the conduct of affairs continually leaving the country and taking such a part in affairs as may seriously interfere with the responsibilities of those who are the governors and managers of affairs of distant countries. But, having said that, I wish at once to add that this is a very exceptional case. We had just concluded a great war, and the country was beyond doubt in a very difficult condition. There were conflicting questions of finance and questions as to labour and other matters which had to be settled; and I confess that I admire the energy, the will, and the ability of the Colonial Secretary in his endeavours 18 to bring things to a happy conclusion. Whatever the Party to which we belong—and the Party that I belong to have never admired the policy of the Government or of the Colonial Secretary in South Africa—we all sincerely desire the success of the efforts of the Colonial Secretary to bring about an agreement between the rival races there, and so arrive at a happy solution of the existing difficulties, and so bring about what we all desire—good government in South Africa. It is not possible for us to go into the questions which have been before the Secretary of State during his journey; we only know what has been done through the newspaper reports. We have no official Papers with regard to what has been done by the Colonial Secretary in South Africa, and it requires consideration and time before we can take a full view of the subject. No doubt it may well be that it will be necessary for Parliament to take these matters into consideration when they come fully before us, and I hope that the Papers will be very full.
I come now to the next subject—the occupation of Kano. Well, we know that this apparently large town has been occupied; but we know little beyond that. I may express the hope, however, that we shall have no more trouble with the tribes in that district, or any difficulties—African or European. Now I come to the latter part of the gracious Speech of His Majesty, in which we are told of those measures which the Government are going to bring before Parliament this session. I notice, first, the reference to Ireland. There is a statement in the gracious Speech that the Government intend to deal with the land question in that country. I have been intimately connected for many years with that subject, and I know it is a difficult one. It appears to me that His Majesty's Government have great courage, and are exceedingly sanguine in what they say with regard to that subject.
The question of Irish land has been before Parliament for many years—for forty or fifty years. Government after Government have tried their hands at it, and they thought they might go a good way toward a final settlement of it—but they have never succeeded in this. I fully agree as to the enormous importance of this question being settled, and I hope that the Government are not taking too sanguine a view when they say that they 19 hope their Bill will make a final settlement. I have noticed with some satisfaction what has taken place recently in Ireland on this question, but I do not know enough to formulate any definite opinion. I cannot say whether the proposal to which the noble Earl who presided over the conference of owners and occupiers of land in Ireland has given his assent should be accepted; but it is a matter of great importance that two parties who have been for so many years in antagonism should be able to come together and to discuss a question of this enormous magnitude in an amicable manner, and come to what appears to be a satisfactory conclusion. I shall not go into the question at greater length now; but I need hardly say that if on sound financial and political grounds we can approve of the Bill of the Government we shall be glad to do so, and so remove one of the great difficulties of recent years.
The noble Duke referred to another matter—the question of the Education Bill for London, and he expressed a hope with regard to that Bill. I am afraid in that the noble Duke was a little too sanguine. I have always said that it was the duty of those connected with educational and local bodies to do all they could to work out the principles of the Act of last year within the Act, and not try to force changes not to be found in the Act. At the same time, I maintain the strongest feelings of opposition to many of the principles contained in the Act of last year, and at every legitimate opportunity—at elections and in Parliament—I shall endeavour, and the Party of which I belong will. I believe, do the same, to carry out our views and effect a modification of that Act. Feeling this, I cannot concur in the opinion that because local authorities are doing their duty, and trying to work, as smoothly as they can, the Education Act of last year, we should abstain from opposition to those principles when the London Bill is brought forward. As the noble Duke has said, the position of London is exceptional from its enormous extent and its local conditions, so different from those of other great communities in relation to education matters. No doubt London must be treated in a somewhat different way from that in which other localities have 20 been treated. But, at the same time, without going into the matter now, I maintain that the great principles which our Party advocated last year still hold the field; and we shall endeavour to have those principles carried out in dealing with the great Metropolis. We shall certainly not tamely submit to the imposition upon London of those conditions in regard to education which we strongly resisted last year when they were applied to the rest of the country.
I come now to another topic, which I consider of great moment, and that is the Convention for the Abolition of Sugar Bounties, lately ratified. We had but a short discussion on the subject in this House before the ratification, though in the other House there was a long debate and a division. Now, I should like to know what has taken place since the ratification. According to the treaty, His Majesty's Government were, if not bound to offer their good offices, bound to bring the Convention before our self-governing colonies with the hope that they would follow the lead of the mother country and do away with bounties. I should like very much to know whether His Majesty's Government have communicated with the self-governing colonies and received answers from them. I would go further, and call attention to what has been said abroad in various Assemblies in regard to this very important matter. What are His Majesty's Government prepared to do in case the Brussels Commission declares that certain of our colonies give direct or indirect bounties? Of course, so far as I know, it is perfectly clear a good many do this; and what will His Majesty's Government do in that respect? Will this country impose countervailing duties against its own colonies? This matter has been referred to in various ways; it has been referred to in Berlin, it has been referred to at The Hague, and there have been many comments made. I saw in a newspaper, not long ago, a report that the Dutch Government agreed with Germany and Austria that Great Britain was bound to take this course. Some papers say it was made the subject of a proviso that Great Britain would not penalise her bounty-giving colonies. The German Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated in the Reichstag that, while holding the 21 British Government bound as above stated, the European Powers had held the question over until after the ratification, because it would then be decided by the Brussels Convention, on which Great Britain would only have one representative. It was incidentally remarked that the "lion's tail was trodden upon." This is an important matter, upon which I think we are entitled to ask for information. I have in my hand papers from the West Indies which show that those colonies are waking up to the fact that, instead of doing them good, the Convention will almost destroy their trade in sugar. The colonists are up in arms and say, "We are Crown colonies, forced to do without bounties, direct or indirect, and at the same time self-governing colonies are going on just as they were." This is an important matter, and I press it in the hope of getting an answer tonight.
There are other portions of His Majesty's Speech I might refer to, such as the London port and dock proposals and the improvement in the law of valuation and assessment, and as to the latter I should like to know what it means. It might be a very far-reaching measure, or it might go a very short way. I have on a previous occasion spoken of the interest taken in the proceedings of the Commission presided over by the noble Lord the Secretary for Scotland, and I hardly think the Government will have the courage to go to the extent of the report of that Commission. Having touched upon these matters referred to in His Majesty's Speech, I feel it my duty to mention one subject which has been omitted, although I might allude to several others. There is no mention whatever of what His Majesty's Government intend to do in regard to reform and reorganisation of the Army. There is a very deep feeling throughout the country upon this subject. A plan was put forward and met with much criticism, a plan copied from foreign models and not adapted to our requirements, a plan for the establishment of army corps all over the country. That plan was an exceedingly expensive one, and in the opinion of many would not fulfil the requirements for our Army. As I understand, the organisation exists on paper only; generals have been appointed 22 to divisions, and even to army corps, and have no soldiers, or very few, under their command. This is a very serious matter, this question of army organisation; and I think we should know what has taken place and what His Majesty's Government intend to do. Of course we have gained a great deal of knowledge and experience from the late war, and the Commission presided over by Lord Elgin ought to provide very valuable assistance. Unfortunately, the country knows very little of the proceedings of that Commission, for they have practically been conducted in secret, and we do not know the nature of the evidence given. I hope the Government will, if not tonight, then at an early date, make some statement on the subject. It is without doubt a matter in which the country takes the deepest interest. We require an army for general purposes, a regular army as efficient as it can possibly be made in the various arms, an army not on an extravagant scale. At the same time, we require a defensive army for the country in case of invasion. I cannot say more on the subject tonight, and conclude, expressing the hope that full information will be forthcoming.
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (The Duck of DEVONSHIRE)
My Lords, I must express my entire and cordial concurrence with the well-merited tribute paid to the ability and good taste with which the difficult, and I am afraid sometimes thankless, task of moving and seconding the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne has been discharged by my two noble friends. The noble Earl has remarked upon the brevity of their speeches. Both my noble friends are fortunately extremely young men; and I admit that it is quite possible that had the duty been placed in the hands of more experienced Members of the House the topics adverted to in the Speech might have been touched upon at greater length and with less diffidence than has been exhibited by my two noble friends. But I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is a very great advantage that men occupying hereditary positions in this House, and who have before them, both in this House and in the country, large opportunities of devoting themselves to political and other work, should as early as possible be introduced to the performance of public duties. I am quite certain 23 that the speeches of my two noble friends will leave no doubt in our minds that they will in future prove valuable and useful Members of this assembly. The noble Earl made something in the nature of a complaint about the multiplicity of topics adverted to in the Speech from the Throne. I do not think he has shown that any of those subjects were superfluous. If the Speech is, as I admit it is, a long one, I think, on the other hand, I may claim for it the merit that it has presented the topics referred to in a manner as little provocative or controversial as possible. I am bound to say, also, that in the observations which the noble Earl has made on the Speech he has done nothing to import any elements of controversy into this debate which are not provided in the Speech itself.
The noble Earl touched, in the first place, upon the question of the Venezuelan negotiations; and he did no more than I expected from him in offering to the Houses of Parliament and the Government his congratulations on the result of those negotiations, so far as they have yet proceeded. Your Lordships will have observed that the cautious and moderate tone of the Speech, which I think I can claim for almost every paragraph, is to be found in the paragraph relating to Venezuela. The noble Earl used some expressions which led me to think that he was under the impression that these negotiations were still more completely concluded than they are actually. I think he used the expression that the negotiations had resulted in the settlement of all matters in dispute.
§ *EARL SPENCER
I did not go quite so far as that. I said, with the exception of certain matters which were referred to the Court at The Hague.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
That would certainly have been a statement going beyond the facts of the case. There are matters which still have to be referred to arbitration; and it is impossible to say that, even with the assistance of a court of arbitration, questions of controversy may not yet arise between us and other Powers who have been concerned in these negotiations. All that the paragraph asserts—and that is, I think, quite sufficient ground for congratulation — is that the negotiations have proceeded to such a point as to 24 enable us and the other Powers concerned to give orders to raise the blockade and bring all measures involving the use of force to an immediate conclusion. Therefore, that eliminates, although it may not be an absolute settlement, all those elements which formerly contained possibilities of danger. It cannot be denied that these proceedings have involved certain elements of risk and danger. It could not well be otherwise when several great Powers have found it necessary to make claims, not only of a pecuniary character, but also of a moral character, affecting the honour and interests, and even the lives and safety, of their subjects, upon a small State which, for reasons with which we are all familiar, does not possess at the present moment a Government of a very responsible character. And all these elements of danger were not removed by the fact that the proceedings of these States were known, were watched with intense interest—I will not say jealousy—were rightly watched with the closest attention by the Government of another great State, the United States, who were properly jealous of any interference on the part of European Powers with the affairs of any American State. That these negotiations should have been brought to the satisfactory point to which they have now been brought, without any serious consequences to the good relations of any of the Powers involved, says, I think, a great deal for the moderate temper of all parties concerned; and I think it says something also for the skill and prudence of those diplomatists who have conducted these negotiations.
The noble Earl complained that this correspondence has not been presented at an earlier period, and I think he said that the anxiety of the country would have been less if at an earlier period we had had a fuller knowledge of the communications which had passed between our Government and that of the United States. It will be found that the Papers which have been laid on the Table today contain much information, not only of what has taken place since Parliament was prorogued, but also a considerable amount of information as to the previous negotiations, which it was impossible to give at an earlier time. The noble Earl must remember that it is the invariable 25 practice of all Governments before making public any despatches relating to such negotiations to consult the Governments concerned as to whether they have any objection to the publication of those Papers in the form proposed; and it was impossible before the prorogation of Parliament to obtain the consent of all the other Powers to the publication of the Papers which the noble Earl complains were not published at an earlier period. I think, considering the short time which the noble Earl has had to study these Papers, he has displayed a most remarkable acquaintance with some of their contents. But I can hardly imagine that even he himself is satisfied that he has so thoroughly mastered their sense that it may not be necessary for him to refer to them at some future period; and I think that any debate upon the manner in which this case has been conducted had much better be postponed until your Lordships have had the opportunity of fully digesting the contents of this Blue-book, and until my noble friend the Foreign Secretary is in a position to make a full statement upon the subject.
It is extremely easy to say, as some have said, that this matter was never worth the trouble and risk which have been incurred, that it would have been far better to leave the matter alone, and that we should have taken no steps to enforce the claims which we have so repeatedly made, the greater part of which are for extremely small amounts, but which have been utterly ignored and disregarded by the Venezuelan Government. I think that in a matter of this sort such a policy would have been extremely shortsighted, and that such conduct on our part would have proved in the end most unsatisfactory, not only to ourselves, but also to the Government of the United States. Accepting as we do fully and unreservedly the Monroe doctrine, to which the Government and the people of the United States attach so great importance, I cannot conceive that anything could have had a greater tendency to lessen the force and acceptance of the Monroe doctrine by the European Powers than any endeavour to import into that doctrine consequences and principles which have never been claimed for it by its authors. Rightly or not, wisely or unwisely, probably wisely and rightly, the Government of the United States has 26 never accepted any responsibility for the acts of the Republics established in South America; and if, in deference to supposed, and I believe erroneously supposed, susceptibilities on the part of the Government of the United States, we, or other Powers of Europe, were to abstain from enforcing claims which we believe to be just and essential to the maintenance of our own honour, and the protection of our own subjects, such a course would make the Monroe doctrine an object of dislike and opposition to every civilised Power in the world. I believe this view is taken, or at all events will be taken, by the great majority of the people of the United States themselves. The people of the United States are very far from being children; they are men of a most practical character, fully aware of, and alive to, the consequences of their own acts; and I do not believe that there can be a better way of acquiring their confidence than that we should meet them in that spirit, and treat them as a people who are fully aware of the consequences of their own actions, who are prepared to assert their own rights, and not to be deterred from that assertion by any supposed fancies or susceptibilities which may be without the slightest particle of foundation.
Then, although it might be right for us to assert our own claims, we are told it was a mistake to assert them in conjunction with other Powers. especially with Germany, in the way we have done. I was very glad to hear the noble Earl dissociate himself entirely from the absurd and exaggerated language which has been used on the subject of the so-called alliance with Germany. It has been explained over and over again by various Members of His Majesty's Government that there has been in this matter nothing of the nature of an alliance. There has been co-operation for definite and mutual objects between ourselves and the German and Italian Governments, but nothing in the nature of an alliance. I should be very glad, if we have a further opportunity of discussing this matter, to have some further explanation of the views of those who think we ought to have acted independently. I should like very much to know what is their idea of the situation that would have been 27 created if we and Germany and Italy, and perhaps other powers, had all separately made our claims, separately taken measures to enforce them, entered upon separate naval demonstrations, and perhaps land demonstrations, entered into separate negotiations with the Venezuelan Government, and indicated separate sources of satisfaction for our claims. I cannot conceive a state of things more likely to conduce to friction and ill-will amongst all the Powers if they, acting for a common object, for some unexplained reason of policy, were bound to act for that common object in entire isolation from each other.
The noble Earl made a few observations, to which I think I have no exception to take, on the next paragraph of the King's Speech, relating to the position of the European provinces of Turkey. I think he suggested that other Governments had afforded more information upon this subject than had been given by us to Parliament. Papers on this subject will shortly be laid before Parliament, and it was thought better to delay them until they could be presented in a somewhat complete form. The proposals to be made to the Powers who were parties to the Treaty of Berlin by Austria-Hungary and Russia have as yet only been confidentially communicated to those Powers, and have not yet been communicated to the Government of Turkey. Of course, until we receive authority from the Powers concerned to do so, it will be impossible to include them in the Papers to be presented to the House. The noble Early said that for the past two or three years the condition of these provinces has been one that has caused much anxiety. I think I can go further than the noble Earl and say that I do not think I remember a time in which the condition of some part of the dominions of Turkey has not caused anxiety. This state of things is no doubt the concern of all the parties to the Berlin Treaty, ourselves not least among them. But the special conditions which at present prevail in the vilayets, of which there are five, in the province of Macedonia, are an immediate danger and concern, more especially to the States named in the paragraph in the King's Speech— 28 Austria-Hungary and Russia—and it has naturally fallen to them, who are more immediately and directly concerned than others, and who are also in a position to put a certain amount of pressure on the Government of Bulgaria, to submit to the Powers of Europe proposals which they think adequate to restore order and to establish confidence in that region. I can only join with the noble Earl opposite in trusting that the proposals may be found quite adequate for the purpose in view.
The noble Earl referred to the operations which are taking place in Somaliland. Your Lordships will observe that that, as well as the preceding paragraph of His Majesty's Speech, has reference to proceedings which affect the security of our fortresses, naval stations, and coaling places on the route to India. I think the difficulties that have arisen with the Turkish Government, or rather with certain tribes very imperfectly controlled by the Turkish Government, and also the difficulties referred to in Somaliland, are subjects about which very little is generally known in this country at present. We shall take early steps to place Parliament in full possession of all the information we have on these subjects; but I am afraid it will be quite impossible, without more copious reference to documents than would be permissible on this occasion, to give the noble Earl anything like a full account of the scope and character of the operations that are going on in somaliland. I can only assure him that there is nothing in contemplation of the nature of the occupation of any vast tract of desert, or, in fact, of an occupation by us of any place not now occupied by us. Tribes under our protectorate and that of Italy have been attacked by the Mullah Abdullah in a manner and with results which it is impossible for us to tolerate; after much consideration, it has been decided between ourselves and Italy that the operations that are now being conducted afford the best prospect of breaking the power, influence, and authority of that Mahomedan potentate, and the best prospect for the necessary protection and security of those under our protection. Although these operations are very little known and under 29 stood at present the public generally, they are matters with respect to our Imperial interests of the very highest importance. The security of our naval bases on the route not only to our Indian possessions, but also to Australia, and to the China seas, is of the very highest importance to the Empire; and holding that opinion, as we do, it is impossible for us to permit the sources of supply to these garrisons, or to the very large populations which have grown up around them, to be threatened with danger in Asia or in Africa.
The noble Earl alluded, in terms to which, I am sure, we can take no exception, to the great work being done by Mr. Chamberlain in South Africa. I entirely agree with the noble Earl that the cases in which it may be necessary or desirable for a Minister of the Crown to undertake such a labour must be of an exceptional kind. But I think that your Lordships will admit that the present circumstances in South Africa are of an exceptional nature. We have just terminated a great, difficult, and arduous conflict. Great questions, some of them of a very difficult character, remain to be settled; and it has been thought—and Mr.Chamberlain himself was of the opinion—that the decisions to be taken by His Majesty's advisers on these great questions would be facilitated if he were able by personal inquiry and communication with the High Commissioner, Lord Milner, and with the representatives of many of the interests concerned, to offer advice on all those topics. I need not say that the idea of superseding, or of in the slightest degree diminishing, the authority of our trusted Commissioner, Lord Milner, never entered into the mind of His Majesty's Government. I believe there is no man who has more cordially welcomed the idea of Mr. Chamberlain's journey and personal investigation of these questions than Lord Milner himself.
There is an observation I think I must make which applies to the many questions asked by the noble Earl. He asked for further information on the subject of the expedition to Kano. I suppose I could give the House some information on that subject, but it would be necessarily of an extremely perfunctory character. Papers on the subject will be laid on the Table of the House almost 30 immediately, and I think it would be far more convenient that this and other matters as to which the general knowledge is very imperfect should be discussed when the House is in a position to do so with fuller information. We are in this House in a rather different position from the other House. The time of the House of Commons is so completely occupied by the business that is laid before it that unless a matter of public importance finds an opportunity of being discussed in the Debate on the Address, it is quite possible that no other opportunity may occur for its discussion. That disability cannot be said to apply to this House, and it will be perfectly competent for noble Lords to discuss any of these matters when full and complete information has been laid before Parliament upon them.
The noble Earl has made some reference to the paragraph in the Speech which deals with the Bill relating to the tenure of agricultural land in Ireland. The noble Earl said we have often had measures purporting to be a final settlement of this question. I trust that this measure may, at all events, approach a final settlement, although those words are not to be found in the Speech from the Throne. I think it would be a sanguine view, however, to say that even this measure will prove to be a final settlement. a Bill was introduced last year in the other House of Parliament with this object, but time did not permit of its discussion. But it has been the subject of a great deal of attention and discussion in Ireland; and, with the fuller information which that discussion has placed in our hands, we hope we are in a better position in the present session than we were in the last to make substantial progress with a measure aiming at the complete settlement of this question.
The conference which has recently taken place in Ireland between representatives of the landlords and the tenants was referred to by the noble Earl. Like him. I shall entirely refrain from expressing any opinion whatever as to whether the resolutions arrived at by that conference do or do not afford a practical basis for a settlement of this question. It would be entirely premature for me to say anything on an 31 extremely difficult and complicated question, on which the responsible members of the Government in the other House will take the earliest opportunity of making a full statement and placing full information before the House. It would not be premature, however, I think, on my part to say that the spirit, at all events, which has animated the discussions at that conference seems to have been of a most satisfactory character. I entirely dissent from the view of those who suggest that the only agreement between the representatives of the landlords and of the tenants was that as large as possible a sum should be extracted from the English Treasury. On the contrary, I think that conference was animated by a sincere and honest endeavour to find fair and equitable terms, on which all classes interested in land in Ireland might find the means of continuing to live and work in Ireland, and to do their best for the prosperity of the country. In these circumstances, it is not too sanguine a hope that we may be approaching the further consideration of this great question under conditions more favourable, more hopeful, than those which have existed on any previous occasion.
There was one other subject to which the noble Earl referred. That was the measure for extending the Education Act of last year, with the necessary modifications, to the metropolitan area. The noble Earl made, I think, a kind of protest against the hope expressed by the noble Duke who moved the Address that we might be spared, in the discussion of this measure, some of the controversies which occupied so much of our time last session. The noble Earl, as far as I understood him, expressed his intention of taking this opportunity of fighting all our old battles over again. I do not think that is either a necessary or an entirely reasonable attitude to assume. I fully admit that the noble Earl and his friends are perfectly free to do everything in their power either to attack, modify, or reverse the principles of the Act which was passed last session; but I do not think it would be unreasonable to ask them to postpone that attempt until the period comes when they will be in a position to give effect to the principles they so strongly hold. I can scarcely imagine that anybody is of opinion 32 that, as regards the most controversial parts of the measure of last year, those which excited the greatest degree of controversy both in this House and the other House, London should be treated on different principles from those which have been applied to the rest of the country. Although its different conditions of local government make the separate treatment of London to a considerable degree necessary, it would not be reasonable to propose to treat London on a different basis and on different principles from those which we have applied to the rest of the country. Therefore, I cannot help expressing my own strong opinion that to fight the battle on these religious questions, of which we heard so much last year, over again on the question of the London Bill will be unnecessary waste of the time of Parliament. The noble Earl complained of the omission of one subject from His Majesty's Speech, which, he says, is exciting a great deal of attention in the country.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I am afraid I have very little or no information to give your Lordships on the subject of the Brussels Convention, except to point out to the noble Earl that a measure is promised which will give him the opportunity for which he has long been pining of a discussion upon the convention for the abolition of the sugar bounties. The noble Earl made some complaint last session that a Resolution was not moved in this House similar to that moved in the other House on the subject; but the Bill which will be founded on that Resolution will have to come before this House, and I cannot conceive that the noble Earl can require any better opportunity than will be afforded him by that measure of entering into a discussion upon it.
I need hardly say that the omission of the subject of Army reorganisation from the Speech indicates that it is not the intention of his Majesty's Government to propose anything in the nature of legislation on the subject of military reform in the present year. The views of the Government upon Army administration and Army reorganisation must be expressed, and will be expressed, at a very early period on the introduc- 33 tion of the Army Estimates in the other House of Parliament, and I entirely fail to see how the subject could have been introduced into His Majesty's Speech when there was no intention of legislating on the subject. I am afraid I have detained your Lordships at considerable length. I do not think it necessary to detain you longer.
In conclusion I would only say that, although the topics referred to in the Speech are not generally of an extremely exciting, or perhaps even of an interesting character, I think, taken as a whole, the subjects referred to in that Speech are subjects not unworthy of the attention of an Imperial Parliament, and of the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. The Speech contains references to many subjects of great importance to our Imperial interests in every quarter of the world—in Europe, in America, in Asia, and in Africa—and these references are well calculated to give to Parliament some idea of the extent, the magnitude, and the importance of the Imperial interests which have been created in every part of the world. And though the references to domestic legislation are not of an ambitious character, the two principal subjects with which it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to deal are subjects than which I do not think there are any that can be held to be of greater importance by the Parliament of Great Britain and of Ireland. The one is an attempt—I trust a successful attempt—to restore social contentment in Ireland, and the other is to complete a scheme of educational reform for the great metropolis of this country, than which I can conceive no subject with which the future interests and welfare of this Empire are more closely concerned.
§ On Question, agreed to, nemine dissentiente; Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty's by the Lords with White Staves.