§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty thanking him for his gracious Speech, I must first ask for the indulgence of your Lordships for one who has so recently entered this House, and who can, therefore, scarcely be said even to have emerged from the period of assimilation. I will first refer to the visit of the German Emperor, for which we are indebted to the influence of His Gracious Majesty the King. The progress—the remarkable progress—which the German Emperor and Empress made through the streets of London, gave the people of this country an opportunity of showing their respect to a great Monarch, and of expressing their friendly feelings towards the great German people. The death of Oscar King of Sweden is greatly to be deplored. He was a kind and constitutional Monarch. It so happens that I had a personal opportunity of judging of the kindly feelings of King Oscar towards the British nation. I was a member of a scientific society which visited Stockholm a few years ago. The King of Sweden and his sons attended a discussion at our ordinary proceedings, and we were afterwards received at the Royal Palace, the King thus giving an expression of friendly feeling towards the English people.
8 The Russian Convention, which is referred to in His Majesty's gracious Speech, is an event of the greatest importance. It settles by mutual agreement questions which have been for years the cause of difficulties and disputes and anxieties between the two nations. The declaration of the respective interests of Russia and Great Britain clear the air. A great weight has been lifted by the declaration that the Governments of Great Britain and Russia mutually engage to respect the integrity and independence of Persia, and have agreed not to seek concessions for the subjects of either in areas which are clearly defined. The condition of Persia at this moment is most deplorable, and we may be very thankful that this Convention has been concluded, for while these domestic difficulties are proceeding, which are no concern of ours, suspicions that this nation or that nation might intervene are finally removed. The Russian Government further recognise that Afghanistan is outside the sphere of Russian influence; Great Britain disclaims on its part any intention of changing the political status of Afghanistan; and all the difficulties and anxieties and responsibilities that we have had in years past with reference to the north-western frontier, if not removed, at any rate must be very much minimised. With reference to Thibet, into which country we recently made a romantic expedition, the Convention further records engagements by which Russia and Great Britain undertake to respect the territorial integrity of Thibet. They undertake not to enter into negotiations with Thibet except through the intervention of the Chinese Government, nor to send political representatives there. As a railwayman I regret to see that they have agreed not to promote railway enterprise; but, as a railway shareholder, in such an enterprise, perhaps I should not be so anxious.
The Hague Conference, at which assembled a numerous array of the representatives of forty-seven States of widely different importance, is an event of great interest. As employers of labour we know the value of personal conferences, which bring conflicting parties into direct relations. The value of these personal relations at such a Conference must be great in the future negotiation of affairs. 9 The question of the reduction of armaments was not under discussion at the Conference, but His Majesty's Government have expressed their willingness to consider this important matter whenever it may be thought wise to do so. The establishment of an International Court of Appeal is a matter of the greatest value. Its existence already bears fruit. As you are aware, the United States Government are willing so to refer questions pending with relation to the Newfoundland Fisheries, and this at the suggestion of Sir Robert Bond, the representative of the Newfoundland Government at the Conference. These questions have caused difficulties between the two nations for generations.
His Majesty refers to the state of Macedonia. The condition of affairs in that country is deplorable. Raids are made by hostile bands, and are difficult to control. His Majesty's Government continue to act with the great Powers, and are suggesting new measures for dealing with this question.
With regard to the Congo, His Majesty's Government desire to see that State humanely administered. The conditions of labour in the Congo Free State are terrible—absolutely those of slavery. The people of Great Britain are watching with great interest the negotiations which are proceeding between the Belgian Government and the Ruler of the Congo State, and we shall rejoice if the Belgian Government take over the control of that State, for then we shall have a constitutional government with which we can negotiate.
The question of Old-age Pensions is raised, and legislation will be submitted with the object of making better provision for old age. There is a general agreement that some provision should be made for the distressed in their old age. The real difficulty is whether the scheme should be a contributory or non-contributory one. I am pleased to see that Lord Roberts is making a great effort to support distressed warriors in their old age, and I ask whether the aged agricultural labourer or unskilled labourer has not also rendered his service to the State, and is not equally worthy of some assistance and support in his old age. You say, "Yes, but they should contribute." I ask how the agricultural labourer or the 10 ordinary unskilled labourer can contribute out of the scanty earnings he receives; and probably it is better he should be expending his wages upon the proper bringing up of his family than in penurious saving which causes them to suffer.
The difficulties of the situation in India owing to the threatened famine are very great. I may remind the House that they have been much alleviated by the extension of the railway system, and it is by an extension of railways in India, by closer and more rapid communication with the different districts, that we may hope still further to mitigate the difficulties of these recurring famines.
The law of licensing in England and Wales is to be dealt with in the coming session. The popular demand is for a reduction of the hours and also for some appropriation of the value which is conferred by the community when new licences are given. As an employer of some fifty years standing, I can testify to the great improvement in the bearing and the character of the working people with whom I am closely associated. I attribute some of it to education, but much of it in later years is due to restriction in the hours of opening and to the greater control of matters of licensing. I hope that the hours will be further reduced, for these changes contribute materially to the elevation of the working people.
The law relating to elementary education and to religious teaching in elementary schools will have to be dealt with. For more than thirty years simple Bible teaching in the primary schools has been conducted with the general approval of the great school boards, and it is on that system, and on that system only, that you can hope to have religious teaching. The alternative is secular teaching only, which I for one should greatly deplore. A Bill will be introduced to regulate the hours of underground labour in coal mines—what is called the Miners Bight Hours Bill. Your Lordships will be aware that there has been a committee of inquiry, the result of whose deliberations is to confirm the general opinion 11 that by limitation of hours you will have restriction of output; that if you have a restriction of output you will have an increase in cost. Coal is the primary necessity of all our manufactures. In the iron and steel trade, with which I am associated, each ton of iron or steel consumes several tons of coal, and if you increase the cost of coal you will increase the cost of steel and iron. You will thereby enhance the cost of raw material and diminish the demand for our ships, engines, and manufactures, and consequently diminish the employment of those engaged in those special industries. I think we may appeal, therefore, to those workmen who are so strenuous in the demand for a reduction of hours in the coal trade to be conciliatory, and not to insist absolutely on the eight hours of the original Bill.
The question of university education in Ireland is a knotty one, and we are hoping that it will be dealt with. It seems so unreasonable that university education should be denied to members of different denominations because a scheme cannot be provided for it. The Bills relating to Scottish land and valuation, which were introduced last session but failed to pass into law, will be again submitted to Parliament. I notice that the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, said not long ago that the "House of Lords is an Assembly which interferes rarely and reluctantly between the people and the achievement of those objects which the popular Assembly has favoured." If the popular Assembly once more pronounces by an overwhelming majority in favour of these measures, let us hope that the doctrine which the noble Marquess then laid down will be practised with the wisdom and discretion which has always distinguished this Assembly. I beg to move.
§ LORD NUNBURNHOLME
My Lords, in rising to second the Address, which has been so gracefully and admirably moved by my noble friend Lord Airedale, I would humbly ask your Lordships to accord me a full measure of that courteous indulgence which you invariably give to those who rise to address this House for the first time. I would ask your Lordships to give me that same kindly hearing that you gave to 12 my father on the few occasions on which he had the honour of speaking in this Chamber. Your Lordships will not wish me to do more than mention a few salient features of the legislative programme for the ensuing session. With regard to education, may I express my regret that your Lordships were unable to come to an agreement upon the Education Bill of 1906? Is not all reform in its inception mainly experimental, and would it not be reasonable to form a basis of experiment by eliminating the most controversial material? Can we not as a nation unite in constructing a system of education which shall be free from all sectarianism—a system which shall be for the advancement of the intellectual progress of our children, which shall teach them the fundamental principles of right and wrong, and fit them to take their position in life as trustworthy and well-equipped members of society?
My Lords, we rejoice to see in the gracious Speech from the Throne that a Bill is to be brought in for promoting the cause of temperance and regulating those fictitious clubs which offer an illicit and unfair competition to a trade already controlled and recognised by the law. The commercial community of this great Free Trade country will greatly appreciate the International Court of Appeal to be set up at The Hague, and we shall, I am sure, all be very glad to know that a Conference is to be held, or probably will be held, to frame laws for the guidance of that tribunal. In the past our commerce has suffered considerable delay and havoc through the action of belligerent Powers with regard to contraband of war and to the status of vessels within the sphere of operations. May we not look with hope that the new machinery to be set up will ensure fair play to the non-combatant mercantile community of all neutral Powers?
As one connected with the shipping trade of this country, I beg leave for a moment to turn to the promised legislation with regard to the Port of London. As your Lordships are aware, the size and the depth of our Thames docks are totally inadequate to modern requirements. In this respect we are far behind 13 many of our Continental rivals. Moreover, there is urgent need of one single authority to control the waterway of our great-port, such as has been success fully established in regard to the rivers Mersey, Tyne, and Humber. I trust that your Lordships will give careful consideration to any Bill brought in to further these objects.
Your Lordships will deeply sympathise with our fellow-subjects in India in the sufferings they have undergone consequent on the partial failure of the crops. I am afraid it has even affected our own people in this country. The wretched harvest of North America and Russia, together with the failure in India, have raised the price of food to our people and of raw materials to our manufactures.
Nevertheless, my Lords, one is glad to recognise that this natural rise in the price of commodities need give us no cause for dissatisfaction with our present system of free imports. May I venture to hope that all sections of this House will view with approval the proposals of His Majesty's Government for dealing with some vital problems of our social system, such as improved housing for those whose lot is unhappily cast in rough places, some provision or means of subsistence free from the bitter taint of charity for those who have grown old in service, more rational hours of labour in our mines, and more careful nurture of our little children.
I gather, my Lords, there may be apprehension in the minds of some of us that the policy of the wage-earning community is for the destruction of our national institutions by vast projects of social upheaval. I have had the honour of representing in another place a constituency largely consisting of the labouring class, and I am convinced that the aspirations and ambitions of that class mainly tend towards their emancipation from the unnatural conditions and the unhappy surroundings in which the lives of many of them are spent through no fault of their own. I speak in the full confidence that in every section of this House we are moved with but one impulse—namely, the conscientious discharge of those high duties which we hold in trust for the benefit of the nation. My Lords, I have the honour to second 14 the Address, and beg most respectfully to thank you for the kindly consideration you have accorded me.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne."—(Lord Airedale.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I trust that the two noble Lords to whom we have just had the advantage of listening will permit me to offer them our congratulations upon the way in which they have acquitted themselves of their task. Both those noble Lords have had the advantage of some House of Commons experience. Both of them will, no doubt, be valuable recruits in this House, and we hope that they may frequently take part in our deliberations. But, in addition to Parliamentary experience, both of them have experience of another kind. The noble mover spoke of himself as a railway man; the noble seconder referred to the fact that he was connected with the shipping trade of this country. I am reminded that, recently, a distinguished colleague of the noble Marquess opposite told his audience that the House of Lords possibly knew something about parsons and gamekeepers, but that it knew nothing about trade. I cannot but think that, when the noble Marquess selected for the mover of the Address the noble Lord who has not only had the advantage of being president of the National Liberal Association, but also president of the Leeds Chamber of Commerce, and of the Iron and Steel Institute, he must have intended to administer a sly rebuke to his colleague.
My Lords, we rejoice to find once more in the Royal Speech the ever welcome announcement that His Majesty's relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly. May every succeeding Government contribute its share towards that most desirable result. I think it is natural that closely connected with that paragraph should be the paragraph in which His Majesty refers to the recent visit of the Emperor of Germany. These Royal visits are not mere parade movements. They afford valuable opportunities for the discussion of international 15 questions between the Sovereigns themselves and between their advisers, and they give to our illustrious visitors opportunities of judging for themselves of the friendly tone and demeanour of the people of this country.
His Majesty's Government are able to announce an important step which should contribute not a little, I think, towards the maintenance of international peace. I refer to the conclusion of a Convention with Russia in regard to the affairs of Persia, Afghanistan, and Thibet. We on this side of the House are certainly predisposed in favour of that Convention. We regard such Conventions as the proper mode of dealing with complications of the kind which this Convention is intended to anticipate, and I think I am justified in saying that, had we remained in office, it is more than probable that we too would have been approached by the Russian Government, and that we should have made an effort to conclude a satisfactory arrangement with them. I think His Majesty's Government are justified in saying that during the recent Persian crisis the existence of the Convention afforded a considerable guarantee for international peace. It is in these moments of crisis that strong Powers are sometimes tempted, especially if they are competitors for influence over a weak Power, to steal a march one upon the other, and I have, no doubt, that the existence of this Convention may have had the effect of preventing anything of that kind from taking place.
But, my Lords, these international instruments after all embody business transactions, and it is from the business point of view that people will naturally regard them. I think His Majesty's Government must be aware that by some persons, and by persons qualified to have decided opinions upon such subjects, the bargain is open to criticism on certain points, and such criticisms have been very plain'y and distinctly offered. This would not be at all a convenient opportunity for bringing on a discussion on such matters, and I merely refer to them because I think it very probable that His Majesty's Government will be afforded an opportunity of explaining 16 these matters, and of meeting these criticisms. I can assure His Majesty's Government that, so far us we are concerned, they will certainly not be offered in an unfriendly spirit, and no one will be better pleased than we shall be if His Majesty's Government are able to reassure us as to any point in regard to which we may entertain misgivings.
There follows, almost immediately afterwards, an interesting paragraph referring to the Peace Conference whch has recently sat at the Hague. A Bluebook has lately been laid on the table of the House dealing with that question, and I find in it a despatch, signed by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he frankly admits that the results of the Conference have, in some respects, been of a disappointing character. If the great expectations with which we entered into the Conference have not been fulfilled, it is perhaps to some extent due to the fact that those expectations were a little exaggerated. I think, for example, the Prime Minister—and may I be permitted, in passing, to express our satisfaction at knowing that he has returned to this country in improved health—was a little too much inclined to believe that this Conference would bring about a general reduction of armaments on the part of the great Powers. As to that, we have a very remarkable comment in the shape of the speech which was delivered quite lately by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The Secretary of State told his hearers that the British Navy, far from being too strong for our needs, was not more than sufficient for them, and that, if foreign Powers were to continue to increase their naval strength, it would be necessary for us to follow suit if we desired that our homes should be safe from attack. My Lords, that is a momentous statement coming from a Minister whose calmness of judgment is as conspicuous as is that of Sir Edward Grey.
Your Lordships will have seen the Blue-book relating to the proceedings at The Hague. It is not very easy to separate what I may call the gold from the dross in it. The Conference has produced no less than thirteen Conventions, 17 a great many of them wanting the signatures of those Powers whose signatures matter most. It has produced eight resolutions, or "opinions" as they are called—pious opinions perhaps they might be called—which, I take it, represent the strivings of the international conscience after somewhat remote and unattainable ideals; and there is the declaration in regard to the use of balloons in the time of war. I wish to express my satisfaction that Sir Edward Fry and his colleagues should have been authorised to sign only what is described as the final Act. The final Act, by the way, occurs, not as one would expect it at the end of the series of documents, but at the very beginning.
I understand that in the view of His Majesty's Government the whole of these conventions require careful examination before this country is committed to them; and that is particularly true of the convention referred to in the gracious Speech—I mean that dealing with the creation of an International Court of Appeal in prize cases. We should all of us rejoice to see such a Court established, if we were quite sure that it would be properly constituted and that it would administer a code of regulations thoroughly considered beforehand and approved by the Great Maritime Powers affected by them. Mention has been made of the great inconvenience to which this country had been put owing to the absence of such a Prize Court; and any one who recollects the events of the Russo-Japanese war will well remember the grave anxiety which was occasioned to us by the absence of such a Court. But these ills, intolerable as they were, would be almost more tolerable than those which we might endure if we found ourselves placed entirely in the hands of an imperfectly-constituted tribunal, administering, not a recognised code of international law, but precepts which it might itself lay down from time to time for its own guidance. I rejoice, therefore, that these matters are to be maturely considered and that the particular point on which I have dwelt is to be examined by a conference of maritime Powers this autumn.
The Speech next deals with the melancholy subject of Macedonia. It is impos- 18 sible to read the paragraph without an approach to a feeling of despair. I have seen it stated in the last few days that in the course of four years there have been no less than 10,000 deaths from violent causes in the Macedonian vilayets. What a melancholy result of the efforts of European diplomacy! I am well aware of the immense obstacles with which the Government of this country has had to contend in dealing with this Macedonian problem. There is, in the first place, the obstinacy and shortsightedness of the Turkish Government. There is, in the next place, the incurable timidity of the Powers—a timidity which in great measure is due to their sincere dread of provoking a European crisis in that part of the world. But I am glad to see that His Majesty's Government are able to announce to us that the Great Powers of Europe are to present to the Turkish Government not only a scheme for the improvement of the justiciary, a matter of first-rats importance, but also—and the words are significant—further proposals for dealing effectually with the principal causes of disturbance.I trust that those proposals will be pressed home, and if it should be the case that the Turkish Government proves still recalcitrant, if the advice of Europe continues to be flouted as it has been flouted in the past, then I hope the Powers will take courage and will press upon the Porte proposals still more far-reaching, the efficacy of which shall not be impaired by any attempt to deal tenderly with Turkish susceptibilities.
Of the Congo State I will only say that I earnestly trust that the negotiations between the Sovereign of the Congo State and the Belgian Government may proceed satisfactorily and that nothing that is done in this country may impede or embarrass the course of those negotiations. It is pleasant to read that the difficulties which have arisen as to the Newfoundland fisheries between this country and the United States are likely to go to arbitration. We can conceive no other mode of settling differences between two friendly Powers belonging to the same race and closely connected by innumerable ties, neither of whom could bear to contemplate any but a peaceful solution of the questions at issue.
19 Then we have a satisfactory announcement as to the adjustment of a difficulty which might have proved acute between the Japanese Government and the Dominion of Canada. May I be permitted to say that that settlement seems to be most creditable, not only to the Government of the Dominion, but also to the Government of our ally, who has exhibited, not for the first time, a self-restraint and a sagacity which have elicited the admiration of all those who have come into close contact with their diplomatic proceedings? I will not dwell upon the question of the scarcity which has arisen in India; but I believe that it is correct to say that in the improvement of railway communications lie our great safeguards against serious misfortunes due to this cause. Thanks to the improvement of those communications, the measures of relief are so admirably organised in India at this moment that, although these recurrent scarcities no doubt entail suffering and the retardation of progress, they rarely lead to serious loss of human life.
I have come to the end of that part of the Speech which reviews the situation in different parts of the world. It is a somewhat extensive field. It embraces all the four quarters of the globe; and it seems to me somewhat remarkable that in that wide review there should be a complete omission of any reference to a matter which concerns us much more nearly than remoter events—I mean the condition of a part of the United Kingdom itself. My Lords, how simple it would have been to have added an Irish paragraph to those on which I have commented. The Macedonian paragraph, with a few very slight verbal alterations, would have met the case. Might it not have read somewhat as follows:—The condition of the loyal population in several important Irish counties shows no improvement. Bands, instigated by Nationalist Members of Parliament, continue to pursue a campaign of violence, and the situation gives serious cause for anxiety.Then there might have been a few words thrown in, as in the Macedonian paragraph, to intimate that His Majesty's Government were taking measures fordealing effectually with the principal cause of disturbance.20 I feel bound to say that in my view the state of Ireland at the present moment is deplorable and scandalous, and that its condition is due entirely to the blind and weak administration of His Majesty's Ministers. I do not believe that ever in the history of this country has a Government, which called itself a strong Government, so connived at an attack upon a respectable class of the community, a, class entitled to protection at their hands. I could detain your Lordships all night if I were to cite my authorities.
Your Lordships recollect the words recently spoken, not by an Irish landlord, but by a learned Judge. At Longford a few days ago Judge Curran reminded the grand jury that in October last he had referred to the persistent and long-continued conspiracy against certain individuals in the hope that the authorities would put an end to this persecution, and afford these unfortunate people some protection. He found that not a finger had been raised, and no movement had been made by the authorities for the defence or the protection of these people, and he hoped that, even at the eleventh hour, the authorities would step in and extend to them, not mercy, but common justice, and afford them that protection to which they were entitled. Another learned Judge has referred to his "degrading experience" upon the bench at Dublin, and your own Attorney-General not long ago spoke of the prevalence of mob law, and characterised the conduct of the people in a particular district as worse than that of West African savages.
What rejoinder are we to expect from noble Lords opposite? I wish to anticipate an argument that may be used. I may be told that it is only a local phenomenon. Now it is quite true that the conspiracy and its sinister results are confined to a certain number of counties, but the object of the conspiracy is to break down a particular industry, and it is only where that industry exists that the conspiracy has been set on foot. That is the explanation of the local character of these events. When, however, you tell me that this is only a local matter, I would reply: You might as well tell a patient who has got gangrene in 21 his foot that he need not be anxious about it, because the other organs of his body are for the moment in a healthy condition. I want to anticipate another rejoinder that may be made. I shall be told that at this moment there is a lull.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
The noble Marquess cheers that observation; I hope he will forgive me if I tell him that to my mind the existence of this lull which comforts him so much is a very disquieting symptom indeed, because we know how that lull has been brought about. I am not going to accuse the Chief Secretary of having made a bargain with the law-breakers. He has repudiated any contract. He has told us that there has been nothing—no protocol, no agreement. I take his word for it. But what has happened is this—an impression has been allowed to go forth that on certain points the wishes of the Nationalist Party are to be complied with. There is to be a Bill dealing with university education in Ireland acceptable to the Nationalist Party; and in regard to cattle-driving, intimations have been made which really suggest to one's mind the conclusion that cattle-driving will no longer be necessary because the Chief Secretary himself is going to have one huge cattle-drive which will obliterate the grazing industry in Ireland. I do not think I do the Chief Secretary injustice. At the very moment when Judge Curran at Longford was dwelling upon the state of the country, Mr. Birrell at Reading announced that what caused him anxiety was the condition of Connaught, the problem of the, congested districts, and how the grasslands of Ireland were to be broken up and distributed among the people who required them for a livelihood. And in the meanwhile, while these measures are being matured, the Chief Secretary, as the saying is, is to be given a chance. And that is the explanation of the lull which fills the minds of His Majesty's Government with so much satisfaction. Let me say only one word in passing with regard to what I can only describe as this crazy policy 22 of migrating the population of the western seaboard to the grazing lands of Central Ireland. Let the Chief Secretary satisfy himself, before he begins to-apportion the lands of Roscommon among migrants from the wilder regions of Connaught, that the men of Roscommon will allow the operation to take place. I do not believe they will.
What has been the result of these events? Never within our time has Ireland had such a set-back as she has received during the disastrous régime which at present prevails. You took over from us an Irish heritage which was in good order. You gave us a receipt for it. The late Chief Secretary announced that he took office at a moment of tranquillity; the present Chief Secretary congratulated himself upon the comparative peacefulness and crimelessness of the country. Well, my Lords, to what was it that that peacefulness and crimelessness were due? I say mainly to the great settlement of the land question embodied in the Act of 1903. It was a settlement which filled every one with hope, which landlords and tenants alike were endeavouring to give effect to. But before you had been in office many weeks you allowed it to become evident that you meant to break down that settlement. That was the first thing. Then you announced publicly that Ireland was to be governed by Irish ideas, not the ideas of the reasonable law abiding population of Ireland, but the ideas of a clamorous minority which is only formidable because you always run away from it. Then you refused to renew the Peace Preservation Act; your love of free trade was so intense that you must needs have free trade in firearms amongst people whom your own Attorney-General describes as not much better than West African savages.
What is the result? I read yesterday the following statement made by the district inspector of constabulary at Gort: In his district there have been thirty-four outrages in twelve months, two cases of firing at and wounding persons, and fifteen cases of firing into houses—50 per cent. of the outrages being thus due to the improper use of those firearms which you put into the hands of every malcontent in Ireland. When this new 23 cattle-driving conspiracy reared its head you ran away from it, you were afraid to face it, and because you were afraid to face it you tried to convince people that it was a small thing of no importance. We remember how the truth was blurted out by the noble Lord who sits at the end of the Government bench (Lord Denman), for what we thought was a carelsss indiscretion on his part turns out to have represented the real mind of His Majesty's Government.
Then you pledged yourselves that you would be content with the ordinary law, well knowing the uselessness of the ordinary law in circumstances such as those which have arisen in Ireland. The objection that you took to using what we commonly call the Crimes Act, was that you yourselves had opposed the Crimes Act when it passed through Parliament. Was there ever a doctrine so dangerous and unconstitutional? Does it not really come to this, that if that doctrine is to prevail the criminal classes will have to look not at the Statute-book, but at the pages of Hansard to see who it was supported a particular measure, and who opposed it. The noble Earl the Lord President addressed himself to this subject the other day, and reproached us with adhesion to what he called the "Tory way;" he said it was our custom—to use without compunction methods of law and criminal justice totally different from those in use in this country.May I be permitted to observe that if the methods are different so are the circumstances. But is the noble Earl quite sure that the procedure of the Crimes Act is totally different from that which prevails in other parts of the United Kingdom? May I recommend him to make inquiries as to the contents of the Scottish Statute-book? I believe he will find that in the ordinary law of Scotland there are provisions which, mutatis mutandis, correspond exactly with the provisions of this extraordinary law which His Majesty's Government are to keep in a glass case to look at, but which they will on no account be persuaded to use.
Then what is the idea of the ordinary law as it presents itself to the mind of His Majesty's Government? I find that 24 they are proceeding under an Act of the reign of Edward III. and another Act of the reign of William IV. That is their idea of the ordinary law, and that is the law which they are setting in motion, not against those who instigate these crimes, but against the rank and file, the dupes who are led by the obscure Members of Parliament who have succeeded in plunging the country into the state in which we now have it. The result has been such a failure of justice in Ireland as I believe has never taken place before in these islands. I hope some one will move for a return of the number of cases of agrarian crime, of the number of persons who have been put upon their trial, and of the number of convictions which have taken place; and if in the shape of marginal notes we might have added the observations of learned Judges, I think the whole document would be one very instructive indeed to the people of this country. The Chief Secretary has announced that he is ready to explain and justify his conduct. I hope we shall have the explanation and the justification, if there be one, in this House; but let me say that it must be a very different kind of explanation and a very different kind of justification from any which have yet been given to the public. One other observation. I trust I shall not be met by the old story that the root cause of these events is to be found in our refusal to associate the people of Ireland with the management of their own affairs. That argument rests upon a twofold fallacy. The first fallacy is the belief that this cattle-driving conspiracy is in any way due to the discontent of the people of Ireland with the system of government—it is a purely predatory and selfish movement, so selfish, indeed, that those who promote it are content to ruin what is. I suppose, the most important of all Irish industries. These are the people who, to use the Chief Secretary's words—Have set their eyes upon the territories occupied by the graziers,"—and, because they want them for themselves, are determined to make these grass farms untenable. That is the beginning and end of the movement. The second fallacy is that any ameliorative 25 measures which you can imagine for Ireland, whether they be agrarian or political, can have a chance of success under present conditions. No measures can succeed unless you are able, first of all, to show the people of Ireland that you know how to make the law respected. If you cannot do that, I care not what your measures are, they are predestined to failure.
I pass for a moment to the remainder of the speech. There follows a statement that—Proposals are to be brought forward for making better provision for old age,"—and that legislation with that object is to be submitted. Of course, we know that that phrase means old-age pensions, and nothing else. That is a most momentous announcement, and I hope the Government will forgive me when I tell them that they seem to have made it at a very inopportune moment and on quite insufficient consideration. We are told that we are to have this year only the beginning of such a scheme, but we know perfectly well what is the end aimed at—the end is to be a system of universal and non-contributory old-age pensions. That is a tremendous plunge. There have been previous inquiries into this subject which have left upon the minds of those who have followed them grave misgivings as to the result of this new policy, and at this moment there is proceeding the Royal Commission presided over by Lord George Hamilton, which is inquiring into the whole subject of Poor Law relief. I should have thought it would have been wise to elicit all the information you can as to the present system before you attempt to graft upon it these enormous and farreaching excrescences.
If for no other reason, you might have proceeded cautiously on account of the state of the national finances. Are you thoroughly satisfied with the state of these finances? I see on every side indications of uneasiness upon that point. You are reducing your indirect taxation, and you have announced that you are going to reduce it still further. Your direct taxation in time of profound peace is on a war level. I do not think this House has forgotten the warning given by my noble friend 26 Lord St. Aldwyn, when he addressed us on this subject last summer. The national liabilities, already colossal, are becoming more colossal still. It is clear, after the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that you cannot now reduce your Navy Estimates. All those who have paid attention to the working of Mr. Haldane's Territorial Army scheme are deeply convinced that it will cost a great deal more money than was at first supposed; your Civil Service Estimates mount up by leaps and bounds. Is this the moment for assuming a new and immense liability?
The present Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken credit to himself, and I think rightly, for his efforts to reduce the debt of this country. There are many people who would submit to the payment of war taxes in peace time if they felt that thereby the financial condition of the country was being rendered permanently stronger for the future. But to ask them to submit to the continuation of war taxes, and, perhaps, to more than war taxes, in order that this new liability may be rashly and heedlessly assumed is quite another matter altogether. In this case there is no turning back. I am afraid that the step you are asking us to take this year may be fraught with very grave results to the financial stability of this country.
I will not attempt to comment at length upon the long series of measures enumerated in the gracious Speech. There is to be a Licensing Bill, and may I say that we all admired Mr. Asquith's agility of mind when on one and the same afternoon he endeavoured to reassure deputations from the Free Churches, from the Union of Clubs, and from the holders of brewery debentures. But we shall have to get to closer quarters over this question. The country will want to know what are the reasons for which drastic legislation of this kind is required at the present moment. Is intemperance increasing? Has the Act of 1904 failed in its object? I have seen it said that the result of that Act has been to diminish licences at the rate of about 1,000 a year. Then we shall want to know whether you are going to deal fairly and considerately with 27 a trade which, when properly carried on, is not a discreditable trade, and with vested interests which have become vested interests because Parliament and the tribunals of this country have recognised their validity from time to time.
Upon education I will only say this one word. I am full of gratitude to the Government for announcing that their proposals are to take the form of a Bill, because the recent action of the Education Minister has suggested the idea that he considered himself free to dispense with the assistance, not only of the House of Lords, but of the House of Commons also, and by executive action on the part of his own Department to do things not only not authorised by any existing statute, but diametrically opposed to the spirit of the existing law. I do not give up the hope of an amicable settlement. I carry my mind back to the long debates of 1906. In those days there was no great disagreement between the two sides as to the main principles on which we were to proceed. Our complaint was that the Government measure failed altogether to give effect to their own principles, and it was upon that point that we fell out. Let us hope that we may succeed better this time.
I derive a little comfort from another Education Bill also referred to in the Speech—the Bill dealing with University education in Ireland. You will recollect that, when this subject was last dealt with by the Government, the then Chief Secretary, with his foot as it were upon the gangway of the steamer that was to take him to America, divulged the proposal he proposed to lay before Parliament. History repeats itself, for this winter we have had a similarly premature and perhaps useful, revelation of the Government scheme, this time from the mouth of the eminent Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, who had, I suppose, been favoured with a private view of the measure. Dr. Traill was able to state with authority that under the Bill Trinity College Dublin, its constitution and emoluments, were to be absolutely excluded, and he went on to announce that Ireland was to have three Universities, and that they were to have "atmospheres" May we venture to express a hope that, in regard 28 to education in England and Wales, some way may be found of affording these "atmospheres" which you are so eager to concede to Ireland.
There are two other Bills referred to which came before this House in the closing moments of last session and which are to be reintroduced this year. Are these Bills to be reintroduced in the same shape and in the same House? I hope the noble Marquess, the Leader of the House, will listen to my plea when I implore him to give us this year opportunities for discussing these measures which were denied to us last year. We have lately had a very interesting paper describing the numerous varieties of Second Chambers which are to be found in different countries, and I take it upon myself to say that no one of these Second Chambers, no matter what its form or privileges might be, would have been ready to pass the Land Values Bill under the conditions in which the Land Values Bill was presented to us in August last. As to the Small Holdings Bill, the noble Marquess opposite will recollect that there was very general agreement on both sides of the House as to the objects aimed at, and that where we parted company was as to the methods of arriving at those objects. We on this side thought our methods were preferable, and we were able to show that they were very much preferred by the Scottish agriculturalists, and we have reason to know that even on the bench opposite, there are distinguished personages more inclined to our view than to the view of the noble Marquess.
One word more before I sit down. I notice one important omission in the list of legislative proposals submitted to us. I find no reference to any proposal for dealing with the relations of the two Houses of Parliament. I would ask noble Lords opposite whether they are treating the country quite fairly when, in the frequent speeches which they have delivered during the recess, one and all of them harp continually on this theme, one and all of them hold up the House of Lords to ridicule or odium, one and all of them misrepresent its action, without submitting to Parliament 29 the proposals which they intend to put forward for dealing with this great question. I ask the noble Marquess what he and his colleagues are waiting for. They are not waiting for the Report of Lord Rosebery's committee; they profess not to be aware of its existence, and they have refused to take any part in that useful inquiry. Nor are they, it appears, waiting until the House of Lords' cup is full, for the Prime Minister has announced that the cup was full many years ago. If that is true, if the cup has been full all this time, is it not a more just and honourable way of proceeding to approach this subject upon the basis of historical facts calmly reviewed and judicially dealt with, rather than to import all the prejudice which you are importing into it week after week and month after month in your constantly-repeated speeches?
The noble Earl the Lord President, in the same speech to which I referred a moment ago, told us what the functions of the House of Lords were. I do not greatly quarrel with his description. He told us that it was our business to revise, to suspend, and to ask for judgment. Well, my Lords, if you hesitate to deliver your attack upon the House of Lords, I say treat us fairly in the meantime. Give us the opportunities to which we are entitled for revising, suspending, and asking for judgment. Do not treat us again this summer as you treated us when last year you invited us within the space of three weeks at the very end of the session to deal with no less than nine measures of great importance, or when, after a most important Bill had been discussed during an all-night sitting in the House of Commons, you asked us the next day to examine and deal with your dishevelled arguments in the last forty-eight hours of the session. I trust that these things will not occur again this session. And let me say that, if you will arrange the business of the two Houses so that we may have that opportunity to which we are entitled of properly exercising our constitutional functions, if you will meet us upon that point and deal with us considerately, there will be no want of consideration shown you upon this side of the House.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
My Lords, I associate myself entirely with the opinion which was expressed by my noble friend who has just sat down in regard to the speeches of my two noble friends who moved and seconded the Address. They were speeches marked both by ability and by intimate know-ledge of the subjects with which they dealt. The noble mover of the Address has had a long Parliamentary experience and a very great experience in the conduct of commercial and industrial undertakings and it was a great advantage to your Lordships' House to have heard the opinions that he entertained. The noble seconder of the Address, on the other hand, is a young man, but he has shown the greatest promise of becoming an effective debater in this House, and he has also shown a grasp of commercial affairs and a clearness of opinion in regard to questions of that kind, which, though natural in one who fills the great position in the shipping world which is filled by my noble friend, yet was remarkable in one of his age. My noble friend opposite said he hoped those two noble Lords would frequently take part in our debates. I hope so too, but I am bound to say, having for many years entertained those hopes in regard to predecessors of my noble friends who have addressed this House for the first time, that they have been very rarely fulfilled, and I have too often had cause to lament that those who gave great promise on an occasion of this kind took very little further part in our discussions. I hope that may not be the case with my noble friends behind me, to whom on behalf of the Government I tender our warmest thanks.
I share with my noble friends and with the noble Marquess opposite the satisfaction with which they regard the recent visit of the German Emperor and his Imperial Consort. These Royal visits show to foreign rulers the hospitable nature of the English people and their readiness to welcome those who come to them as friends; and they afford opportunities to that great diplomatist the King for the purpose of the discussion of public affairs. The connection between the German Emperor and His Majesty the King is dynastic. But there is 31 another connection between Germany and this country—the connection of a common race origin; and these visits afford us an opportunity of offering to the German people the strongest testimony we can give of our most earnest desire to live on the most friendly terms with them.
With regard to the death of the King of Sweden, I would like to make one addition to the remarks which fell from Lord Airedale. His late Majesty was not only an amiable and thoroughly constitutional monarch, he was also a great literary character. He was celebrated for his talents in poetry, and I believe he wrote a poem called "An Ode to the Baltic," which has become one of the national songs of the people of Sweden.
As to the Anglo-Russian Convention, I have no objection to offer to what the noble Marquess has said; on the contrary, I thank him for his remarks. I am glad the noble Marquess approves of the efforts which we made to enter into such a Convention. I do not complain of the intimation which the noble Marquess appeared to give that the provisions of that Convention might form the subject of discussion in this House. I think it is very desirable that that should be so. So far as it relates to Persia it appears to me that we have already had remarkable proof of the advantages which we shall derive from the Convention. We all know the unhappy condition of Persia at the present time. There have been times when in such a critical state of affairs in that country British and Russian envoys would have competed against each other, jealous and eager to gain a small success and to add slightly to the prestige, as they would have considered it, of their respective countries, and out of such a state of things very grave and serious complications might have arisen. But throughout these disturbances in Persia the British and Russian Governments have acted together, and if the extreme evils of a different state of things have been avoided, it was due to that portion of the Convention which has been lately concluded.
With respect to Afghanistan, the noble Marquess opposite knows that 32 there have been for many years various attempts to introduce some system of intercommunication between Russian and Afghan authorities on the frontier. As the Russian and the Afghan frontiers are now conterminous, it is inevitable that in that close neighbourhood there should arise difficulties which it would be advantageous to deal with locally. I hope that under this Convention we shall have arranged a means by which that may be accomplished, and in doing so I think we shall have taken a very reasonable step in the direction of making the peculiar relations which exist between Afghanistan and this country compatible with the changed conditions of the Afghan frontier. The treaty excludes all communication upon political subjects between Russia and Afghanistan, and the treaty, as it seems to me, is peculiarly advantageous to the Ameer of Afghanistan, because it gives him security, not only for the recognition by us of the freedom from interference of his internal government, but it also secures him a similar guarantee from the Government of Russia. For the first time there is given in the solemn form of a treaty a recognition that Afghanistan is within the bounds of British influence, and that Russia has no right whatever to interfere politically therein. I look upon this treaty, therefore, as having gained a great and important advantage for Russia, Great Britain, and Afghanistan.
Your Lordships will, perhaps, like to know what has happened with reference to His Majesty the Ameer in this matter. The treaty was signed on 31st August, and on 10th September Lord Minto informed the Ameer by letter of the conclusion of this Convention, and of its character. At that time the Ameer was absent from Kabul, and, being absent, he on 29th September wrote to say he was away and would consider the matter on his return. He has returned now to Kabul, and the Government hope very shortly to receive his approval of the Convention, which is eminently advantageous to him. Orientals are proverbially slow in these matters, and it is not improbable that he may take a somewhat long time for consideration; but the British native agent at Kabul is coming away on private leave very 33 shortly, and Lord Minto has instructed him at his interview with the Ameer when he leaves Kabul to urge upon him to send an answer as soon as he can. I have no doubt that if the answer is not received Lord Minto will take the necessary steps to make some intimation on the subject, but I have no reason to believe or to suppose that the Ameer will not in the end welcome this Convention, and be very glad that it should come into operation.
In regard to the Treaty between France, Germany, and Russia for preserving the integrity of Norway, I have only to say that the Government have received today a telegram stating that the King of Norway has ratified the Treaty. I believe there have been rumours that the British Government in some way refused to entertain or opposed some desire of the Swedish Government in regard to this matter. That is not so. I am informed that no representations of the Swedish Government have been shut out or prevented from being considered by any action of His Majesty's Government.
I now pass to the Hague Conference. I think that there is in some quarters a tendency to underrate the effect and utility of that Conference. I do not at all agree that it has not been productive of good. I think that much good has come from it, and I believe that it has laid a solid foundation upon which an advance can be made in the interests of peace on a similar occasion in the future. My noble friend spoke of the desire entertained by the British Government that there should have resulted from the Conference some substantial step towards the reduction of armaments. My Lords, there is no one who will deny that if that tremendous burden which presses upon the shoulders of the people of the world at the present time for military and naval expenditure could by mutual understanding have been lessened, a great and important work would have been accomplished. My right hon. friend Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and my right hon. friend Sir Edward Grey thought that, in the interests of humanity, it was desirable that that question should be brought to the notice of the Powers of the world, 34 and they took every means in their power to that end. But the subject naturally is a very difficult one—that I do not for one moment dispute—and it did not commend itself to some of the Great Powers as one suitable for consideration on this occasion at The Hague; consequently it was not there discussed, and no decision was come to. But I venture to believe that, having placed upon record the desire of the British Government in that way, we have taken a not unimportant step in the interests of peace.
I quite agree with my noble friend who has just sat down that the establishment of the International Court of Appeal in prize cases is a matter involving considerations of great importance. I believe that the establishment of such a tribunal will be of very great value. My noble friend Lord Nunburnholme, speaking with his great knowledge of shipping matters, pointed out how greatly the shipping interest would be relieved if this Court could be set up. But I quite agree with my noble friend the noble Marquess opposite in thinking it a matter which requires very careful consideration, and therefore it is that His Majesty's Government propose to assemble in the course of the ensuing summer or autumn, a Conference in London for the purpose of dealing with those questions of international law.
The next paragraph in the Speech is a very sad one, because it refers to the present condition of the Macedonian vilayets. There is no concealment in that paragraph. The Government have advised His Majesty, and His Majesty has been pleased to use expressions of unusual strength in a document of this kind as to the present state of things in Macedonia. I can assure the House that the Government will do their utmost to bring the terrible state of things which exists there to an early and peaceful conclusion. But you must always remember that it is not impossible that this country might, by closing the Macedonian question, only succeed in opening the Turkish question. That is the great difficulty which lies before us. We believe that it is the first principle which ought to guide us that we 35 should to the last moment endeavour to maintain the Concert of Europe in regard to this painful question. Every effort will be used on our part. We shall be prepared to take the first move in regard to the matter, but we do believe that there lies involved in these considerations questions which might threaten the peace of the world, and if they were to give rise to such a catastrophe as war between this country and Turkey, that must inevitably end in a European war, which would be the greatest evil probably in these days that the world could encounter.
With regard to the Congo State, all those who know the character of the Belgian Government and Parliament must have every confidence in the wisdom and justice of that Parliament, and we earnestly hope that they may be able to come to some arrangement with regard to this question, which will relieve those who signed the Act of Berlin from the responsibility which may otherwise fall upon them with regard to the engagements of that Act. I share the pleasure my noble friend has expressed in regard to the consent of the Government of Newfoundland and of the United States to refer the disputes between them to arbitration. I was very well prepared for the approval which the noble Marquess expressed on that subject, because he has done a great deal to further the cause of arbitration. I believe my noble friend has signed, or caused to be signed, more treaties of arbitration than any previous Foreign Minister, and he may, therefore, be accounted as one of the foremost friends of that great mode of settling public disputes.
Coming to the difficulties between Canada and Japan, differences of a very delicate character, I am glad to say that they have been brought to a conclusion, and that instruments have been signed settling, as I trust, the matter in a perfectly satisfactory manner. I think my noble friend expressed his satisfaction with the course which had been taken by the Japanese Government, but we must not overlook the course which has been pursued by the Canadian Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I ventured to express my appreciation of the conduct of both Governments.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I associate myself in that appreciation. I think the Canadian Government have shown in this matter a degree of statesmanship, moderation, and wisdom which deserve the highest praise. I now pass to say a word about old-age pensions. Of course, I cannot go into any discussion of the coming Budget, nor into any discussion of the proposals which my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have to make with reference to the matter. That he will have proposals to make is clear from the paragraph in the Speech. But I could not help recollecting, when I was listening to what the noble Marquess was saying, that there were many noble Lords sitting behind him who have been at times accustomed to tell us that, if we will only adopt a tariff-reform policy, one of its first effects will be to enable the granting of old-age pensions. They cannot be such very bad things when so many of the friends of the noble Marquess have advocated them as one of the natural and desirable results of their detestable policy.
My noble friend spoke about the state of things in Ireland and I understand it is intended to prolong this debate beyond the usual period, adjourning it till to-morrow so that the subject may be fully discussed. His Majesty's Government are not afraid of a discussion of that kind, and they will be prepared to meet the charges which may be brought against them. I was very glad to hear my noble friend say that he did not associate himself with some of the language which has been used with respect to my right hon. friend Mr. Birrell. I do not think that portions of that language are creditable to those who used them. I do not think that the mode of maintaining law and order in Ireland is to charge, and to charge untruly, those who are engaged in administering the law. My right hon. friend will, perhaps, make his answer to those charges to-night, and I shall leave him to deal with his own defence. But, when my noble friend says that the Government have neglected their duty, that they ought to have done this, that, and the other, what is it the noble Marquess definitely means? I suppose he means that we ought to have put in 37 force some, at least, of the provisions of the Crimes Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I would ask the noble Marquess whether he expected that we should be eager to do that. Did not he know the views that we had taken in respect to that legislation in the past? Did not he remember that twenty years ago there was recorded in the House a protest against that Act, a very weighty and argued document, signed by some of the foremost men in the Liberal Party in this House at that time, stating clearly and unhesitatingly the doctrines which we have held on this subject? I have very little belief in legislation coercion. For more than 100 years Ireland has, not constantly, but from time to time, with lucid intervals when efforts have been made at reform, been under the operation of Coercion Acts of one kind and another. I do not think they have been successful. I do not think they have resulted in increasing respect for the law in that country, and I hold, in the phrase used by my late right hon. friend Mr. Bright, that "force is no remedy." We look to see what we can do to meet this difficulty in another way. We are told that it is wrong to speak of remedying grievances unless you have first absolutely established perfect order in Ireland. I do not agree with that. I believe you should seek to remedy grievances, if any grievances exist, and that we are bound, certainly by all our traditions and opinions, to try that remedy before we look for any other means of dealing with the present condition of affairs.
It is not true to say that His Majesty's Government are indifferent to the grievous state of things that have existed in Ireland of late. We may have our remedy; noble Lords opposite may have theirs. Noble Lords opposite may be so enamoured of the Crimes Act that they I may think it is the obvious thing that men who have protested throughout the whole of their political lives against a policy of that kind should adopt it out of hand. We are not inclined to do that, and we have every reason for thinking that we can find a remedy of another kind in the 38 fact that the Congested Districts Board, in their Report for 1895, said they could not deal with the questions submitted for their administration unless they had the power of compulsory purchase of lands in certain districts. Nothing was done upon that recommendation; no notice was taken of it. Whether that absence of notice has anything to do with what has subsequently happened in Ireland I do not say; but I do say that, having that recommendation before us, we are bound, as we intend, to act upon that advice if we can obtain the consent of Parliament. My noble friend rather cast ridicule upon us because we said we wanted to govern Ireland by Irish ideas. The author of that sentiment, Lord Dudley, sits on the Front Bench opposite, and I think it is a sentiment which did him great honour. It is a sentiment to which I entirely subscribe, but why my noble friend thought fit to deprive Lord Dudley of the distinction I confess I am quite unable to understand.
It is quite true that His Majesty's Government do intend to introduce a Bill to amend the licensing law. My noble friend said he did not know exactly why; he did not think the Act of 1904 had in any way failed. But my noble friend will well remember that that Act was pretty fully discussed in this House, and that there were many Members of the House, including a full contingent from the bench of Bishops, who were in favour of the Amendment of that Act in many respects. I think some of those right rev. Prelates were not quite so bold in pressing their opinions to a division as I should have desired, but at the same time they did very distinctly intimate their opinion that, in some material respects, that Bill would require amendment.
As regards the Elementary Education Bill, my noble friend said he was very glad that my right hon. friend Mr. McKenna had on this occasion thought fit to apply for an Act of Parliament, and he said that my right hon. friend had been in the habit of doing things which were inconsistent with the law. Well, my Lords, we will discuss that whenever my noble friend likes. Whenever any noble Lord brings forward in 39 this House the question of the legality of any of the acts of my right hon. friend we shall be quite prepared to enter into a discussion upon that matter. My noble friend did not say much about the Housing Bill and for what is called town planning. I believe that to be a very important and a very urgent subject. I am not fond of talking about things not being Party questions, for I have often observed that when men get up and say this or that is not a Party question, and that they are going to consider it from a perfectly independent point of view, they generally make the strongest possible Party speech. Therefore I will merely say that this is a very important question relating to a matter which will have the sympathy of noble Lords on both sides of the House.
As to the question of University education in Ireland, I hope it will be possible to come to some conclusion in the present session. It is a matter in which the people of Ireland have a great and definite grievance. Mr. Balfour recognised it when he said that he had difficulty in defending the Union while this grievance was unredressed. There are only two more Bills alluded to—those relating to Scottish land and valuation. I can assure your Lordships that it is the earnest desire of the Government that those Bills should be sent up for your Lordships' consideration at the earliest possible moment; and every effort will be made by the Prime Minister to get them through the House of Commons at a time when this House will have an ample opportunity of considering them. I welcome the statement of my noble friend that these measures will receive consideration and discussion when they come up to this House. I believe I have gone through all the topics touched upon by my noble friend. The list of measures is long, and the labours of the two Houses are likely to be arduous and prolonged; but the business of the country is so great and growing, both in administration and legislation, that it makes increasing demands on all concerned. I hope and believe that so far as this House is concerned your Lordships will not refuse to incur even 40 private inconvenience in order to take your part in these necessary labours.
§ VISCOUNT RIDLEY
My Lords, before the House rises I desire briefly to call attention to yet another omission from the gracious Speech from the Throne. It is not that I am disposed to complain of the insufficiency of the fare which is set before your Lordships to consume during the next few months. As the noble Marquess observed in his closing remarks, it is likely to provide sufficient occupation for this House and for the other for many weeks to come. But although the two Houses of Parliament may be fully employed with the measures that have been promised us, I cannot help expressing some surprise that there is no mention whatever in the Speech of the great and growing problem of unemployment. I do not desire to exaggerate that problem. It is true, and always must be true, that the unemployable will be among the unemployed, but His Majesty's Government thought fit last year and the year before to pay especial attention to the problem of unemployment. The previous Government made grants of public money for the administration of the Unemployed Workmen Act which the present Government have continued, and many of the friends and allies of His Majesty's Government have never failed to urge upon their immediate attention the problem of unemployment as being one of grave national urgency.
What I desire to ask of the Government in this connection is: What is the state of affairs now which makes it unnecessary to refer to that problem when it was necessary to treat it so seriously last year and the year before? What has happened to make the problem less serious? Why do His Majesty's advisers pay no attention whatever to it? It is, as a matter of fact, true, that in many of the important manufacturing towns of the north subscriptions are being got up for unemployed funds, and that other subscription lists are being opened to feed the children of unemployed men and women. It is the fact that in December last the returns of unemployed in trade unions were over 6 per cent. as compared with 41 4.9 per cent. in December a year ago, when His Majesty's Government thought fit to notice the question. It is true also that the increase in the number of paupers and the increase in the number of emigrants from this country has gone on steadily, and every indication as regards the unemployed is more serious than last year, when His Majesty's Government thought fit to take serious notice of it.
There is another feature to which I would draw attention. Some of your Lordships may have noticed a report upon the Poor Law statistics of the metropolis, and perhaps some noble Lords may have observed this very remarkable feature, that it is not so much the increase in the number of paupers to which these returns draw attention, although that is significant enough, but the increase in the number of able-bodied paupers. The new feature in workhouse statistics is the increased number of recipients of Poor Law relief who are neither old nor ill. That is a very grave and serious feature. It is not the old and the unemployable so much as the middle-aged and the employable who show a tendency to increase in the workhouses of the metropolis. And it is not during the winter months—so the reports proceed—that these increases are most noticeable. The remarkable feature in the increases is that they are during the summer months and among the able-bodied and the employable. At this very moment there is a march of the unemployed proceeding towards London. The problem is exactly the same as it was a year ago, if not aggravated in its intensity by every set of statistics to which it is possible to allude.
Why is it that His Majesty's Government have paid no attention whatever to this problem? Is it because they conceive that the measures which they have passed during the past year have relieved or mitigated the problem? Do they imagine that the getting rid of thousands of men of the Regular Army and throwing them on the labour market is going to relieve the problem of unemployment? Do they imagine that reducing their works at Woolwich and diminishing work in the dockyards is going to help to relieve 42 this problem? Do they imagine that giving contracts abroad in increasing quantities is going to help the solution of this question in this country? And do they imagine that the growing tendency of capital to find its way abroad is going to help employment in these islands?
There is one figure I would like to trouble your Lordships with in regard to the increase of the amount of capital going abroad. I take the return of the Income Tax Commissioners, and I find that the average growth per year during the past twenty-one years of ascertained income coming into this country from foreign investments has been £1,134,000 per year—that is, an average increase of £1,134,000 each year over the previous year during the past twenty years. But for the last year in respect of which we have the complete figures of the Income Tax Commissioners, which, curiously enough, is the first year during which the present Government held office, the increase was not an average one of £1,134,000, but £7,837,000, which is an increase of six times as much as the average for the previous twenty years. At 5 per cent. that sum, capitalised, represents something like £150,000,000 of capital gone out of the country in the year. It cannot be argued that that has improved employment in this country. It is obvious that money invested in works abroad does not give employment to workmen in these islands. This is not the moment to press upon the attention of the House the only way in which I believe unemployment can be cured—namely, by tariff reform—but I think the reason why His Majesty's Government are afraid of mentioning the problem is that they are afraid of the only possible solution.
With regard to dealing with unemployment by tariff bargaining, I have read that His Majesty's Government have negotiated a tariff treaty with the United States whereby American commercial travellers are permitted to bring into this country samples of cocoa, wines, and so forth free, and in return for that the Government of the United States are to remit 25 per cent. off articles such as pictures and art treasures exported from this country to America, That is 43 no doubt an instance of a tariff arrangement with another country, but an instance where His Majesty's Government, in endeavouring to apply tariff reform, have applied it in a way in which it is of the least possible benefit to this country. They make an arrangement whereby they admit on easy terms samples of goods which are going to compete with workmen in this country, and in return get from the United States a concession by means of which rich people may have greater facilities for removing our art treasures to another country.
If the various measures which the Government have taken during the past year have done nothing to relieve unemployment, and if the figures show that the problem is more acute than when the Government took office, what is it they promise to do in His Majesty's Speech? You will not find one single measure which is directly calculated to do anything to assist this question. You find various measures mentioned dealing with housing, with land questions, and with the protection of children, all of which measures may be of great benefit to the country, but, if passed, and if useful, will at their best only ministrate to the comfort of the employed and not find employment for the unemployed. Another education Bill is mentioned. It is true that that measure may provide employment for a certain number of school teachers, and, if you create a Welsh Department, occupation for a few more lawyers; and the Bills for Scotland may lead to more employment for surveyors. If you take old-age pensions, they will give extra comfort to the aged, but will not relieve unemployment. If you look to the Licensing Bill that will probably increase unemployment, especially if it is to asssist in getting rid of the humble occupation of barmaid.
Not only do His Majesty's Government in all the measures they foreshadow make no proposal whatever to deal with this unemployed question, whether by tariff reform or otherwise, but they take no notice whatever of what is undoubtedly a great aggravation to the question of unemployment at this moment—that is to say, the increase 44 in the price of all the necessaries of domestic consumption. I allude more particularly to the price of bread, which, as we have been told on Cobdenite platforms, is a necessary of life. We must remember that cheap bread was promised by the reformers of 1846. It was one of the great attractions to the manufacturers and one of the arguments in favour of adopting the system of free imports. It was said that bread would be so cheap that wages could be lowered; and at the last election it was declared that by voting for the Liberal Party you Were voting for the big loaf. Do not let me say that the Liberal Government have wickedly said that the price of the loaf shall be 6d. when it used to be 4½d., but they promised the country the big loaf, and though the country may be having that loaf it is paying a bigger price for it. I do say that the Liberal Party promised the country that by voting for the present system they were voting for a cheap loaf, and I further say that facts have contradicted them, that the free trade system does not guarantee to this country under existing circumstances the cheap loaf, and that a bargain with our Colonies on the lines of preference would have a greater prospect of permanently maintaining the loaf at a reasonably cheap price.
I do not desire to labour that particular point at this moment. There will be other opportunities of pressing home what I and others conceive to be the real remedy for unemployment. What I rose to call attention to, and what I think will probably very seriously be called in question in other places, is the total absence of any indication on the part of His Majesty's Government that they have taken into consideration this question, which they themselves have declared again and again was a serious and pressing problem, and which, since they made those declarations as to its seriousness, they have in the various measures which they have attempted to bring forward done nothing whatever to relieve or mitigate.
THE EARL OF MAYO
My Lords, it is not my wish to detain your Lordships 45 for more than a few moments. I do not rise to complain of any omission from the gracious Speech, but to draw attention to the fact that this is the first time the Congo question has been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. I am glad to see in that Speech these words—My Government are fully aware of the great anxiety felt with regard to the treatment of the native population in the Congo State. Their sole desire is to see the government of that State humanely administered in accordance with the spirit of the Berlin Act.Speaking for the Congo Reform Association, which has worked hard in regard to this question for many years, it is gratifying to find that at last some recognition is given by the Government to the representations which have been made with regard to the horrible way in which the Congo natives have been treated and the way in which they have been forced to labour. The Berlin Act should not only be enforced in that respect, but if Belgium takes over the Congo I trust it will also be enforced in respect of the trade of the nations signatory to the Berlin Act. That, perhaps, is not quite as important, but nearly as important, as the question of the natives. I hope that later in the session we shall have a discussion upon this subject. Meanwhile nothing will be said by myself as one of the members of the Congo Reform Association or by my colleagues which will impede in any way the negotiations which are going on between Belgium and King Leopold. The treaty of cession has now been formulated and the question is being debated in the Chamber. The noble Marquess expressed the hope that when the negotiations were completed the Powers would be relieved of their responsibility, but the responsibility of the Powers will end only when the atrocities and forced labour cease. I do not wish to press the noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for an answer to my remarks; but, in speaking of Africa, I would remind him that there was a Commission upon the disease of sleeping sickness, and I should like to know what has happened, as this question affects not only the natives of the Congo, but those of a great part of our East African Possessions.
THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Lord FITZMAURICE)
My Lords, I not only have no complaint to make of my noble friend for having mentioned the subject of the Congo in this debate, but on the contrary, I am grateful to him for having so early, and also, if I may say so, so adequately recognised the importance of the fact that the Congo question and the ill-treatment of the natives on the Congo have been mentioned in the King's Speech. That is, as he most truly said, a very important thing. It is quite true that both in this House and in the other House of Parliament of late years—indeed, I may say every year—there have been long and important debates in which the ill-treatment of the natives and the violation of the Berlin Act, not only in regard to the treatment of the natives, but also in many other important particulars, have over and over again been dwelt upon. But the matter has now been placed on record in a great public document, the King's Speech.
I hope that, to a certain extent, this may be an answer—not, perhaps, as complete as some would wish—to those who, moved by a not unnatural impatience, have during the last few months complained of His Majesty's Government's not having taken strong action with regard to the Congo. I entirely share the feelings of sorrow which those gentlemen have expressed in regard to the state of things existing on the Congo. But an Association, however large and important, does not bear the responsibilities of State. In the case of the Foreign Office, every word which falls from the lips of right my hon. friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or which is written by his pen, is of the greatest gravity, and clearly every step has to be taken with the greatest care. I am convinced that everything that has happened since last year has shown that the course which was indicated by Sir Edward Grey in another place and by myself here has been wise. We submitted to Parliament that any rash attempt to interfere in the course of the negotiations between the Sovereign of the Congo State and the Belgian Parliament would be as likely to do harm as good.
47 Those negotiations, I told the House in June last, would, I hoped, have entered upon an important phase by the autumn. That statement has been fully justified. I never said, nor did Sir Edward Grey in another place, that a treaty would have been actually settled and signed by that time. That would have been an absurd hope to hold out. But what I did say was that these negotiations would, I believed, by that time have entered on a stage showing a great advance, and that they would then probably proceed to a satisfactory conclusion. The general course of events is, I think, fairly well known to your Lordships, but I may say that a certain unexpected element of delay was introduced by the lamented death of the Belgian Prime Minister, an eminent man whose loss his country has every reason to deplore; but now that a successor has been found to his onerous office, I have reason to know that the negotiations have been resumed and they appear to be progressing, if slowly, in the direction we all desire.
My noble friend has alluded to another question which is very germane to this one. He has asked for information in regard to the investigations into the question of sleeping sickness, which so greatly affects British territories in Africa. I certainly had hoped that by this time it would have been my good fortune to have been able to tell your Lordships that the Convention in regard to this question, which was practically agreed upon last summer, had been signed. The International Conference which met in London upon sleeping sickness and tropical diseases, arrived unanimously at certain conclusions, but as the delegates who came from foreign States had no power to sign a treaty, the Conference was adjourned. The Conference was to have met again in November, but the German Government, most naturally, desired to send as one of their delegates that most eminent scientist, Dr. Koch, whose name is more associated than that of any living man with tropical diseases. Dr. Koch was then in Africa, and the Conference agreed to adjourn till January, but at the last moment it was found that 48 that date was not convenient to another of the Powers, and we consented to a further adjournment. I am glad, however, to have this opportunity of explaining that the delays were in no manner owing to anything which took place on this side of the water, but were entirely due to our desire to find a date convenient to the other Powers interested in this question. I am now able to say that I hope the Conference will reassemble in March, and I have every hope also that a Convention will then be signed.
I am not inclined to think that your Lordships would desire that I should attempt to follow the noble Viscount opposite and discuss the large question of tariff reform and unemployed labour. I only desire to state that it would be a very great mistake to suppose that the mere fact that this question is not mentioned in His Majesty's Speech is to be taken in any way as showing a want of interest or of appreciation of the importance of the subject on the part of the Government. Clearly there are several alternatives before the Government in this matter. A Bill could be brought forward, depending, no doubt, very largely upon what the Chancellor of the Exchequer could allow to be done as part of his general scheme of finance in connection with the question of unemployed; or the existing Unemployed Workmen Act could be continued for a short period by inclusion in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. I am not saying that either of those courses has been decided upon, or adopted, or rejected. I am only desirous of saying that the question is one of the importance of which the Government are fully conscious. So far as the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, is concerned, I am inclined to think that he had already been answered by his own leader, because my noble friend who leads the Opposition found fault with the Government for dealing with the question of old-age pensions instead of waiting for the Report of the Poor Law Commission presided over by Lord George Hamilton. Now it appears to me that if the argument of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition is good against us in regard 49 to old-age pensions, it is still more true against the noble Viscount in regard to the unemployed problem.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, as there are many peers from Ireland who desire to discuss fully the condition of affairs in that country, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Moved, "That the debate be adjourned."—[The Marquess of Londonderry.]
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.