§ LORD ILKESTON
My Lords, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty thanking him for his gracious Speech from the Throne. I do so with a deep sense of the special responsibility and difficulty of the task on this occasion, which marks the opening of the first session of the first Parliament elected in a new reign—a session, moreover, which is likely, from all one can tell, to be a historical session inasmuch as it will be called upon to deal with grave Constitutional problems. In these circumstances I venture to ask for an extra measure of that generous indulgence which your Lordships are accustomed to grant to one who addresses this House for the first time.
7 My Lords, I am sure that every one here and every subject outside this Chamber will desire to associate himself with the touching words with which the gracious Speech opens, and which refer to the profound sorrow that fell upon this country, and, indeed, on the whole civilised world, last year through the ever-to-be-lamented death of our beloved Sovereign Edward VII. He was a Monarch who in a most unique way grew year by year—nay, I may almost say day by day—during his too short reign, in the love and respect of his people, while he developed at the same time those high qualities as a Ruler which made him a great influence throughout the civilised world. It was in keeping with his remarkable personality that he always used his influence to promote the happiness and prosperity of his people at home, while abroad he used it to ensure goodwill among the nations of the earth. In this way he won the highest title among the many given to Monarchs in all ages, in the noble name of Peacemaker. Long may his influence be felt; long and widely may his example be followed!
The accession of His Majesty King George V took place amid deep and universal sympathy, and was hailed with that affectionate regard and confidence which his well-known and frequently expressed interest in the wide Dominions of this Empire has won for him. These qualities have throned the King secure and high in the hearts of his people; and the wise project of His Majesty, announced in the gracious Speech, of giving to the hundreds of millions of his subjects in India a personal and proper share in the celebration of his Coronation as Emperor of India is an indication of the continuance of that regard for his Dominions beyond the seas which will increase the popularity of the Monarchy throughout the Realm. The same sagacious policy dictated the Mission of His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught to South Africa recently, and I am sure this House rejoices that that visit has resulted in such unequivocal success.
My Lords, the paragraph in the gracious Speech referring to foreign affairs calls for little comment, but contains matter for much congratulation, for it refers to our friendly relations with Foreign Powers. The other matters mentioned are such that we are justified in expecting satisfactory settlements, and in anticipating 8 with confidence that the Coronation year will be blessed with that "Beauteous Peace" which "gives safety, strength, and glory to a people." My noble friend who will follow me will speak of the approaching Imperial Conference which is to assemble in May. Therefore, with your Lordships' permission, I will now turn to the paragraphs which promise legislation.
To quote the words of the gracious Speech—Proposals will be submitted to you without delay for settling the relations between the two Houses of Parliament, with the object of securing the more effective working of the Constitution.Those words raise in a direct form the question of the powers of this House. That question has haunted the whole of my political life, for in 1884, when I first began active political work, I had the honour to be associated through Birmingham politics with that far-seeing Statesman, Mr. John Bright. There was at that time very acute feeling in the country in connection with the Franchise Bill and the action of this House in connection with that measure, and men's minds were greatly exercised on the very subject which is likely to receive our attention during this Session. Mr. Bright, speaking as a moderate man, and after discussing suggested schemes for the reform of this House, then said—Now, the proposition that I should make would be this: that they [the House of Lords] should have unimpaired all the power they have now with regard to any Bill that has passed the House of Commons for the first time during the session in which the Lords are called upon to deal with it. That is, in the case of this Bill they would be at liberty to amend it, and send it back to the Commons. If the Commons did not like the Amendments and would not accept them, the Bill would go back to the fords, and if the Lords chose they might reject it. But in a second session, if practically the same Bill was sent up to the Lords, they would then also have a right to debate and to amend; but when the Bill came down to the House of Commons in this second session and the Commons would not agree to the Amendments of the Lords, then the Lords should be bound to accept the Bill.At that time—nearly twenty-seven years ago—this was not regarded as a wild and extravagant proposal. On the contrary, as I know from a close acquaintance with the constituencies, it was regarded as extremely moderate.
Since then the country has grown more and more democratic, and the institution of county councils and the general develop 9 ment of local government throughout I he country have trained all classes to regard popularly-elected bodies everywhere as the only constituted authorities in legislation and administration. That consideration is one to which, I think, during the coming Session your Lordships will have to give due weight. Mr. Bright called his suggestion "a complete remedy with the least disturbance." The least disturbance—that, above all things, is what is to be desired at the present time in the best interests of the country. Last year there was before your Lordships' House the plan of the Government, embodied in the Parliament Bill. It was more moderate than the proposal of 1884. It required a Bill to be rejected, not twice, but three times by this House over a period of not less than two years and three successive Sessions. In other words, a Bill to be passed without your Lordships' consent. would have to be read nine times and go through at least three Committee stages in the House of Commons and be before the country for discussion for over two years—an ample safeguard, I venture to think, against hasty and ill-considered legislation.
The Parliament Bill was, I believe, honestly drawn to cause the least disturbance and to leave to this House the great and wholesome powers of initiation, revision, and delay. Its main object was to open a way through, a reasonable, deliberate, and even tardy way through, for Bills sent up to your Lordships irrespective of the political colour of the House of Commons. That demand for a way through on conditions reasonable and impartial is what will have to be considered in the coming Session. The noble Marquess opposite, who leads the Opposition in this House with, if he will allow me to say so, such conspicuous ability, has described this as the sterilisation of the House of Lords. Sterilisation is an ugly word. But my profession has taught me to regard it as connoting a beneficent process which destroys hurtful influences and still retains the wholesome and useful constituents of the article sterilised. In this sense I respectfully submit that the Government plan might preserve all wholesome nutriment for the body politic and get rid of the disturbing and dangerous elements. I say this as one who prays earnestly that this House may for many generations continue to perform functions of great 10 authority and usefulness. The gracious Speech refers to other measures of great and far-reaching social reform, with which my noble friend who will second the Address will deal. It only remains for me to thank your Lordships for the kindly and patient hearing which you have given to my remarks, and to move the Address.
§ LORD WILLINGDON
My Lords my noble friend in his opening remarks made an earnest appeal to your Lordships to extend to him your generous indulgence and consideration in making his first speech in your Lordships' House. If it be necessary for him to make that appeal, how much more necessary must it be for me. Who have not a tithe of my noble friend's political experience and Parliamentary knowledge? I therefore most earnestly ask you to accord me a, special measure of your indulgence and consideration; and I will promise on my own account that while I shall be very brief in my remarks, I will endeavour to uphold what. I believe is the tradition on these occasions and say nothing of a controversial nature.
May I at the outset add a few words to the graceful references which my noble friend has made to the first paragraph in the gracious Speech? There can be no doubt that by the death of His Majesty King Edward VII this country sustained a great anti grievous loss, the loss of a Sovereign who by his tact, his magnetism, and his personal influence not only endeared himself to all his people, but held high the dignity and prestige of his Throne. King Edward has been taken from us, but I feel sure that the recollection of his great services will always remain with us—the recollection by a grateful people of one who during his life and almost up to the day of his death worked, and worked strenuously, for the good of his country. But, my Lords, while we mourn the loss of our late King, we surely have good reason to rejoice in the sure and certain knowledge that His present Majesty King George is determined to uphold the high traditions of our Royal House. And here may I add that I am sure it is a matter of rejoicing to us to know that His Majesty will be so ably assisted in his high responsibilities by Her most, gracious Majesty the Queen. Loyalty to the Throne is an instinct of the British race, and it is satisfactory, at the beginning of this Parliament, to be able to assure His Majesty of the loyalty of every subject in his Dominions 11 and, further, to assure him that we are determined to assist him in every way to maintain the greatness and honour of his Throne and Empire.
In this year, which I hope may be one of the most auspicious years in the annals of our history, it is satisfactory to your Lordships, I am sure, to know that our relations with foreign Powers are thoroughly friendly. I trust that that condition of things may long continue, and that, if there has been any feeling of suspicion, of distrust, between us and any foreign Power at any time, during this year that feeling may be entirely swept away, and that we may in future live in friendliness and amity with all the great countries of the world. You will have noticed that there are two matters which are the subject of negotiation between ourselves and other great countries. I have always felt that it is unwise for any layman with insufficient knowledge to attempt to discuss in detail any subject of negotiation between Governments, particularly if they refer to foreign affairs. Therefore I pass by that by merely saying that I sincerely trust that the negotiations may come to a sound and satisfactory issue to all concerned.
The forthcoming visit of our great Colonial Prime Ministers marks, I think, the first of those quadrennial Conferences which will in future become part of the established system of our Imperial life. I am sure we all hope that these Conferences may be productive of the best results, and may tend to the binding closer together of the Mother Country and the Colonies. I think we may be sure, if we may judge from the published resolutions that have already been sent from the Colonies of Australia and New Zealand, that there is no lack of interest in Imperial affairs in our Colonies, nor will there be any lack of material for debate when the forthcoming Conference meets. It must be a matter of great satisfaction to your Lordships to observe the continual influence, importance, and prosperity of our Colonies, and with that continual influence, importance, and prosperity their determination and their resolve to assist us more and more in taking their share in upholding the responsibilities of the maintenance of this great Empire.
May I be allowed to express the view which I have long felt, that this satisfactory condition of things is in the main due to the policy of self-government, which I 12 believe has been the mainspring of the enormous success of our Colonial administration; for while it has given free liberty to our Colonies, it has tended to a feeling of mutual trust, mutual confidence, and mutual loyalty between all parts of the Empire. If we look at Canada and New Zealand we find there great Colonies prospering exceedingly, containing a race of vigorous and independent men, who are working for the good of the Empire, and who have shown in the past, and, if need be, will show in the future, their devotion and loyalty to the Motherland. Perhaps I may he allowed one word of personal reminiscence in saying a few words in reference to Australia, for I well remember, when I had the honour of acting on the staff there of my noble friend and relative Lord Brassey some fifteen years ago, attending Conferences in the City of Melbourne which led to the grouping of those Colonies into the great Commonwealth of Australia. From some practical knowledge of that country and of its inhabitants I think I can safely say that, given more population and further prospects of development, it will become one of the greatest Imperial assets under the Crown.
And last, but not least—for I sincerely think that this has proved the most successful instance of our policy of self government—I wish to say one or two words with regard to South Africa. I am well aware that there are some who still think that our policy there has been premature, and who have gloomy forebodings with regard to the future; but I own that for my own part I am a confirmed optimist in this matter, and I believe that as years go by we shall find in South Africa a race of people as loyal and as devoted to the Throne as in any other Colony in the Empire. And is not this view to some extent borne out by the extraordinary enthusiasm on the part of every race and every class of people which attended the visit of the Duke of Connaught when he went on his great Imperial Mission as representing His Majesty the King to set the final seal on the Act of Union by opening the Union Parliament in South Africa? I think we may safely say that the recollection of that visit will long remain in that Colony, and I am sure you would wish that I should express our grateful and respectful thanks to His Royal Highness for this great Imperial service. I cannot conclude this reference to our Colonies without adding this one remark, 13 that I think we may rejoice with the great Dominion of Canada in the knowledge that His Royal Highness has lately consented to take up the high and responsible duties of Governor-General of that Colony, and we feel confident that his presence there will tend much to the consolidation of the Empire.
My noble friend has dealt with such intimate knowledge and so thoroughly with the question of Constitutional reform that it will require very few words from me, but I am glad to have this opportunity of stating, for what it is worth, my individual opinion on this somewhat controversial question. I am strongly in favour of dual-Chamber government in this country, and I believe it would be a misfortune if the dual-Chamber system were done away with. But having been a Member of Parliament in another place for a good many years, I am bound to say that I have long held the view that your Lordships' House required considerable reform and I hope and trust that the reform of this House may be the ultimate outcome of this Constitutional controversy. But, my Lords, I must honestly say this, that believe that the passing of the Parliament Bill is a preliminary and necessary step to a sound and satisfactory solution of the question of the reform of yourLordships' House, and to the securing of principal Government measures passing into law. We have had much discussion and much controversy on this question. We have lately had a General Election, the verdict of which is probably quite fresh in your Lordships' minds; and although I know that it would be an impertinence in me to surmise what will be, or even to suggest what to my mind should be, the action of His Majesty's Ministers, still less of noble Lords opposite when this measure comes before your Lordships' House, might I be allowed to make this one observation, that at the beginning of this Parliament, synchronising so closely as it does with the beginning of what we all trust will be a most peaceful and prosperous reign, I most profoundly hope we shall approach this question in a spirit of reason, and with a desire for fair play and justice all round, and thus I trust we may come to a satisfactory conclusion of what is, no doubt, a very difficult problem.
My noble friend has told your Lordships that I intended saying a few words with regard to the other Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne, but I 14 feel that I need not detain you for more than one or two minutes, for the main principles of those two Bills are well known to all your Lordships' minds. The first extends the benefit of old age pensions to those people who hitherto have not been able to enjoy that boon owing to the fact that they have received Poor-law relief; the other provides, by a system of mutual insurance, the principles of relief in sickness and invalidity to people in our great industrial centers. These Bills, I feel quite sure, will, when they come up to your Lordships' House, receive your generous and sympathetic consideration. I have endeavoured, very inadequately, to express my views with regard to the position of our Imperial interests and to the measures that are coming before us during the forthcoming Session. May I, in conclusion, while thanking your Lordships sincerely for the courteous way in which you have listened to my remarks, express the profound hope that the legislative and administrative work of this Session may conduce to the permanent prosperity of the people, and to the safety, honour, and welfare of our Sovereign and his Dominions.
Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne.—(Lord Ilkeston.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I trust that I may be permitted at the outset to offer our congratulations to the two noble Lords who have just addressed us. We have listened to them with pleasure. Both of them bring to the House Parliamentary experience; both of them have been thought worthy of promotion to office by their own Party; both of them will, I have no doubt, contribute usefully to our discussions in future. The noble Lord who moved the Address brings to this House not only political experience but knowledge of another kind, which we feel can be applied to advantage in the discussion of many of the subjects which come before us; and I may, perhaps, be permitted to say that one effect of his presence on the Benches opposite will be that we shall all of us be extremely careful how we use scientific metaphors.
We desire to associate ourselves with all that was said by the two noble Lords in regard to the subject dealt with in the opening paragraph of His Majesty's Speech. From this House, at any rate, he will receive in the fullest measure 15 that sympathy for which he looks in the abiding sorrow to which he refers. And the same feelings will go out to him when, before long, he assumes the Crown of these realms. He will approach that memorable occasion in his life with the good will and affection of a loyal Empire and with every omen propitious for the new reign which is now opening.
His Majesty, in speaking of the reign of his Royal father, dwells upon the unceasing and devoted activity shown by King Edward VII in the service of his subjects. That devoted activity is characteristic of the Royal House, and I think we may say that the Speech from the Throne contains two illustrations of the manner in which that activity is exercised. We have, in the first place, the King's reference to the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught to South Africa—a visit upon which we heartily congratulate His Royal Highness; and we have the further reference to His Majesty's own contemplated visit to his Indian Dominions. I feel sure that we may confidently anticipate that this exhibition of His Majesty's interest in his Indian subjects will be acclaimed by them. It is rather a common-place of those who speak and write of India to say that there is no such thing as an Indian people, and that those who dwell in that country are divided by race, religion, geographical features, and other distinctions. All that is, no doubt, perfectly true, but I do believe that if there is any one feeling which would tend to unite all classes of the community in India it is a feeling of allegiance to the ruler who at the very outset of his reign gives this striking proof of his interest in his Indian Dominions.
Both the noble Lords dwelt with satisfaction upon the sentence in the gracious Speech which deals with the foreign relations of this country. We are always glad to be reassured in this matter. We are a peace-loving nation. We are not at this moment conscious of having any quarrel, or any cause for quarrel, with any foreign Power. But we cannot conceal from ourselves that there is a certain spirit of restlessness in the world, that the great nations are showing, with every year that passes, an increased need of expansion, that their competition for commercial advantages becomes keener and keener, that competition in armaments becomes ever more acute; and he would indeed be 16 sanguine who ventured to say that the condition of the civilised world was one of perfectly stable equilibrium at the present time. We therefore hear with satisfaction the words which, on the advice of his Ministers, His Majesty uses when he tells us that his relations with foreign Powers are of a friendly description.
My Lords, the next paragraph in the Speech deals with the negotiations which have been in progress with the Japanese Government for a Treaty of Commerce to replace the Treaty of 1894. I notice with some relief that we arc told that these negotiations are likely to result in a satisfactory arrangement. I say this because there have certainly been circumstances which led us to believe that the adjustment of such an arrangement might not prove to be a very easy matter. I dare say your Lordships may recollect that about a year ago Count Komura delivered a speech in which lie explained that the new statutory tariff of Japan was to be of universal application, and he added that, although there would be conventional tariffs with certain Powers, those conventional tariffs would only be admitted where the Power in question was able to give reciprocal advantages. He was reported to have added that, as Great Britain was pursuing what is called the Free Trade policy, there would be no room for a convention with that country. It is possible that that passage in Count Komura's speech may have been imperfectly reported; but it certainly created very considerable alarm in this country because the immediate result was that a deputation of gentlemen interested in the trade of Japan called upon the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and begged him to do what he could to prevent their interests from suffering. They were apparently not quite so convinced as some members of His Majesty's Government that duties of this kind are always paid by the consumer. I dare say some of your Lordships may have seen the new Japanese tariff. The increases are enormously high—in some cases as much as 500 per cent. In cotton yarns the increases range from 40 per cent. to 250 per cent.; in woollens from 30 to 120 per cent.; and there is a substantial increase in most of the leading branches of British trade. We shall, therefore, be greatly comforted if the noble Earl is able to tell us confidently that the new arrangement is likely to be satisfactory to this country.
17 May I say one word upon another foreign question which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne? There have been during the last few days very disquieting reports in regard to Macedonia. An operation described as disarmament is in progress in that most long suffering corner of the world. An army which has lately been employed in Albania under a general who appears to be a soldier of a very strenuous description has now visited Macedonia, and it is repotted that the disarmament is being carried out in circumstances of very great barbarity and in a very partial manner. A Turkish member of Parliament lately assured his audience that in the three districts of Salonika, Monastir, and Uskub no fewer than 4,000 persons had been maltreated, of whom sixty-one had been permanently disabled and eleven beaten to death. I do not know whether His Majesty's Government are aware of these occurrences; but I do trust that we shall hear that they are being watched with a vigilant eye; and we cannot be surprised that the comment on them should be that confidence in the new Constitutional system has been gravely shattered in Turkey.
I pass to another matter which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech, although some of us might have expected that it would have been mentioned. I mean the Declaration of London. We all of us welcome the attempts which have been made, not without a considerable amount of success, to settle by peaceful means international difficulties and complications. In 1907 this country became a. party to a Convention entered into at The Hague for the establishment of an international Prize Court, and we have lately had another conference in this city for the purpose of drawing up the rules under which this international Prize Court is to do its work. The noble Earl opposite must be aware that the publication of these rules has created very grave apprehensions in the minds of the commercial public. I wish carefully to guard myself against accepting all the criticisms which have been levelled at these rules. I am quite ready to admit that it is our business to compare the state of things which might arise under these rules, not with an ideal condition of things which we should like to arrive at if we could, but with the actual condition of things which takes place under the national rules by which 18 foreign Powers are at present guided. But making allowance for all this, I am bound to say that as to some points the uneasiness to which expression has been given does not seem to me altogether unreasonable. While I take it that most of us would be glad to see an international Prize Court substituted for the national Prize Courts with which we now have to be content, we should, most of us, be inclined to say that our approval was subject to two conditions.—the satisfactory constitution of the Court itself and the satisfactory framing of the rules which the Court will have to administer.
The position of this country is different from that of any other; and for that reason we are surely right if we regard these questions with a. more critical eye than other Powers regard them. This country, owing to its insular position. is entirely dependent upon sea-borne supplies. We are constantly told that it is our business to maintain the command of the sea, and we are told with great confidence that we may depend upon maintaining that command. But be that command never so well maintained, does it not yet remain the case that in time of war the great ocean highways cannot be so thoroughly policed as to render it possible for trade to flow along them quite in its normal fashion? Our supplies must run the gauntlet of an enemy's cruisers, and the question which people are asking themselves is whether these new rules will really render it easier or more difficult for those supplies to reach our shores. It is impossible to discuss so intricate a subject upon an occasion like this; but I do wish to express my hope that His Majesty's Government will spare no pains to take into their confidence the representatives of the great commercial interests who, I think I am right in saying, had no part in the discussions which took place in London, and that they will endeavour, before these new regulations are ratified, to satisfy themselves that they are not really open to those objections which have been urged with so much force in many influential quarters.
I confess that the paragraph in the gracious Speech dealing with the condition of Southern Persia gives me somewhat cold comfort. Our complaints with regard to the condition of Southern Persia are of very long standing. His Majesty's 19 Government report that some improvement is noticeable and they intend to await further developments. By all means let us be patient. But I think the people of this country will become impatient if the patience of His Majesty's Government is too much prolonged; for after all there would be no trade routes and no trade in Southern Persia if it were not for the enterprise of British subjects and the activity which has been shown at different times by the British Government and by the Government of India. The condition of these trade routes has been scandalous, and I trust that before long either substantial amelioration will have taken place or else that His Majesty's Government will not hesitate to resort to the measures which they have announced for the purpose of putting things upon a better footing.
His Majesty's Speech goes on to refer to the approaching Colonial Conference and to the visit of the delegates by whom the great overseas Dominions will be represented. We shall welcome these distinguished Statesmen and we shall rejoice at their presence on the occasion of His Majesty's Coronation. But they are coming here, as we are told in the Speech, on business of importance, and it is to such matters of business that our thoughts naturally turn. Amongst those matters of business none is more important than the commercial relations of these great Colonies with the Mother Country. We have ventured more than once to point out that while in regard to their relations with the Mother Country no progress was being made, in regard to their relations with foreign countries matters were by no means standing still, and now we are informed that Canada, after knocking in vain at our door, is going to follow up her commercial Agreements with France and Germany by a commercial Agreement with the United States of America. As the noble Lord who spoke second truly said, it is our desire to leave these great Dominions to work out their own development, and I shall not permit myself to say a word of complaint as to the action of the Canadian Government; but there can be no doubt that this is really a most momentous departure, not only in the history of Canada, but in the history of the British Empire.
The commercial policy of Canada has hitherto been developed upon national and Imperial lines. The policy introduced by 20 Sir John Macdonald was known in Canada as the national policy. This new policy, so far as we are able to judge, proceeds not upon national and Imperial lines, but upon continental lines—a wholly different thing. The endeavour appears to he no longer to draw the trade of the Dominion from west to east and east to west, but to direct it southwards, and in accordance with the geographical features of the country. The primary effects of this policy, if effect is given to it, are not difficult to anticipate. You will have, in the first place, a considerable diminution of the opportunities for Preference within the British Empire. You will have, in the second place, a diminution of the advantages now enjoyed by British trade under the Preference which the Canadian Government has already extended to us. And you will have, in the third place, a deflexion of the vast and almost unlimited food supplies which the great granaries of the North-west of Canada are capable of producing from ourselves towards the great country which lies immediately to the south of the Canadian border. Those effects are important enough; but if we pause to consider the remoter consequences of this new policy, it is surely not an exaggerated view to say that these may be of an infinitely more far-reaching character. The whole history of the Empire may indeed be altered if these great Dominions, which we properly speak of as sister nations rather than as Colonies, are encouraged to develop, not upon national and Imperial lines, but in accordance with considerations of geographica proximity. I do not know whether any Papers will be laid on the Table, but the matter seems to me to he of such vast importance that I could not pass it by without one word of notice.
I pass to those passages of His Majesty's Speech which deal with the programme of business during the coming Session; and I trust that I shall not be called to order if I pause for one moment at the paragraph which is not addressed to your Lordships' House but to the other House of Parliament—the paragraph dealing with finance. It is a paragraph of unusual brevity. I can remember for many years that the Speech from the Throne always contained an intimation that the Estimates for the year had been prepared with due regard to economy. A different formula came to be adopted, and I think in the Speech of last year it was said that it was desirable 21 to enforce economy, but that there were very extensive calls on the Exchequer which had to be met. This year economy has disappeared altogether—it is not even hinted at—and we can scarcely be surprised. I venture to say one word in regard to the manner in which the great subject of finance is at present dealt with in Parliament, and I am speaking not of what may be in store under any new dispensation but of what actually happens to-day in present circumstances. Surely we are justified in urging, if, as we admit, finance is primarily the concern not of this House but of the House of Commons, that that claim on the part of the House of Commons carries with it a corresponding obligation that finance shall be thoroughly, punctually, and carefully discussed and examined in that House. What I think we may fairly charge upon His Majesty's Government is that they so manage the business of the country as to render it absolutely impossible for the other House of Parliament to deal with finance otherwise than in the most spasmodic, uncertain. and unsatisfactory fashion.
Will your Lordships consider the record of His Majesty's Government during the last two years? The Budget of 1909 was carried over until 1910. That was not the fault of His Majesty's Government, but they solemnly assured Parliament that when the House met again in the beginning of last year finance was to be the first matter brought before it. We know perfectly well that finance was, on the contrary, put on one side for reasons which were perfectly obvious to any one who watched the course of political events, and that the arrears of 1909 were not cleared up until comparatively late in 1910. Then came the Budget of 1910, when there was no interference on the part of your Lordships' House. The Budget of 1910 was taken up, was dropped, and came up again for discussion late in the month of November of last year; and even then it was only by a rigorous application of the closure that you were able to secure the Tea Duties and the Income-Tax portions of the Budget. The remainder of last year's Budget has been again carried over, and Parliament has been promised that that most important remanet is to be dealt with with the usual measure of latitude before the end of the present financial year.
22 I ask your Lordships what in these circumstances is likely to be the fate of the Budget of 1911? These matters, as I said just now, are not supposed to concern us as members of one of the Houses of Parliament, but they concern us very much as taxpayers; and we have surely a right to raise our voices when we find His Majesty's Government continually by their action depriving the taxpayers of the protection which they ought to derive from thorough and adequate discussion of the national expenditure.
This homily, for which I really apologise, is perhaps not entirely out of place because the measures which are announced in the Speech are all of them, unless I misunderstand them, measures which spell considerable additions to that expenditure. There is a measure dealing with old-age pensions. I shall be obliged, by the way, if the noble Earl will tell us why a Bill is necessary. We were rather under the impression that financial provision had already been made for dealing with those cases where the removal of the pauper disqualification involved an additional charge. The Bills relating on the one hand to insurance against invalidity and on the other to insurance against unemployment deal with subjects which have attracted a great deal of attention; and I think I may say that the proposals of His Majesty's Government will be examined with a feeling of sympathy and a desire that some means may be found of dealing with both of these most important questions.
But, my Lords, there is one measure, also a costly measure, to which I understand His Majesty's Government are committed, which is not mentioned at all in the gracious Speech. What about payment of Members? I believe I am correct in saying that before the end of last Session the Prime Minister gave two pledges to Parliament—pledges which were provoked by the Osborne judgment, and the peremptory demand made by the Labour Members for the reversal of that judgment. The Prime Minister gave in the first place a pledge that provision would be made for the payment of Members, and for the payment of their election expenses. He also announced that if he came back to power he would propose legislation empowering trade unions to include in their objects and organisation the 23 provision of a fund for Parliamentary and municipal action and representation and kindred objects. Those two pledges were given; but we find not a word about either of those measures in the Speech from the Throne.
At this point I desire to make a brief digression. I referred just now to the Osborne judgment. I think that we on this side of the House may fairly complain of His Majesty's Government and of their supporters for the manner in which, particularly during the recent election campaign, they encouraged the belief that it was this House sitting as a Second Chamber which was responsible for the Osborne judgment, the Taff Vale judgment, and various other judgments of the House of Lords sitting as an Appellate Tribunal which have not been entirely satisfactory to certain classes of the public. Only the other day I noticed that a member of Parliament stated that the trade unions were being compelled to change their constitution "at the dictation of the House of Lords," the suggestion obviously being that it was those 600 Peers—who, as we know, stand between the people and all beneficent proposals—who were interfering with the constitution of the trade unions. But I am sorry to say that it is not only the more insignificant supporters of the Government who use this language. My attention was called to the election address issued by a right hon. colleague of the noble Earl's, a colleague of whom I wish to speak with a very great respect, a respect which I sincerely feel for him—I mean Mr. John Burns. What did he say on the subject? He was taking the House of Lords to task for their interference with useful legislation, and he said that—The House of Lords were not content with being the final Court of Appeal in the interpretation of the laws,but that they displayed class partiality in their dealings with the legislation which came before them. We know perfectly well in this House that the decisions of the House of Lords sitting as an Appellate Court are in form the orders of this House, but we also know perfectly well that the House as a House has nothing whatever to do with them; and it is, I must say, intolerable that this kind of fiction should be allowed to prevail and to get bold of the mind of the people of the country, as I verily 24 believe they have got hold of the mind of the people in many parts of the United Kingdom.
I go back for one moment to the Osborne judgment. I desire to ask the noble Earl with reference to what I said a moment ago, first, whether the two pledges given by the Prime Minister last year hold good, in spite of the failure to mention them in the King's Speech. I should like also to know whether those pledges cover the whole ground, and whether we may understand that if those pledges are fulfilled there is no idea of attempting to do what is commonly described as reversing the Osborne judgment. In the third place, I ask the noble Earl whether in his opinion these measures which the Prime Minister has announced are, in his view, of so trivial and domestic a character as to render them unworthy of a place in the gracious Speech from the Throne. I can only say—and I think I can speak not for myself alone—that I can conceive no more dangerous innovation, no more serious innovation certainly, than the new departure involved by the decision to pay Members of Parliament out of the public purse. I say nothing of the extravagance of the measure and the addition which it will make to the burden of the country.
But do you imagine for a moment that you will be able to stop with the payment of the House of Commons? What about the four new Houses of Parliament which we understand are before long to be created in different parts of the country? Will they not have to be paid? I should like to ask even, What about the new and democratically-constituted House of Lords? Will the democratically-constituted House of Lords be so fastidious as to reject the Sessional allowances which are paid with so much liberality in other parts of the world to the different Second Chambers which are to be found there? And what about our county councils and those great municipal bodies which now render ungrudgingly so much valuable and gratuitous service to the country and which will most certainly ask, if other people dip their fingers into the national purse, why they should not be accorded a similar privilege. I venture to express my doubt whether under this new system the country will be better served, although it will be more expensively served. I venture to doubt 25 whether working men of the type we should like to see in the House of Commons will really gain very much by the change, and, lastly, I doubt whether the House of Commons itself will be as much respected when it becomes not only omnipotent, but salaried under an arrangement by which I presume every year the Members of that House will vote their own remuneration on the Estimates.
I offer one word in passing about the short penultimate sentence of the Speech which mentions that—other measures of importance will be introduced and proceeded with as time and opportunity allow.It is very usual, if my memory does not play me false, to find in the King's Speech a certain number of measures of the first rank enumerated, with a sort of rearguard of minor measures that are to be taken if time permits. But one is generally given some hint of the complexion of these measures of the second rank. I should like to know whether these other measures are merely measures of minor importance, routine measures, or whether this innocent little clause is the "lucky bag" to which the Welsh supporters of His Majesty's Government are to be told to look for Welsh Disestablishment and the Irish supporters of the Government for Home Rule? I hope that the noble Earl will vouchsafe some explanation at any rate on that point.
Before I sit down may I say a word—I have, not unnaturally, left it to the last—with regard to the great measure hinted at in the last paragraph but three of the Speech? It is a very innocently worded paragraph. We are told that—proposals will be submitted without delay for settling the relations between the two Houses of Parliament, with the object of securing the more effective working of the Constitution,as if the Constitution of this country, which has been the envy of other countries, and a Constitution under which this country has prospered and grown great., can be said to have broken down merely because noble Lards opposite have been unable to secure the passage of half-a-dozen measures on which they had set their affections.
Now, my Lords, what are these proposals going to be? The noble Lord who spoke first gave us to understand plainly that 26 what was intended was the reintroduction of the Parliament Bill of which your Lordships were allowed to have a brief glimpse last autumn. The noble Lord apparently persuaded himself that that Bill is a measure of the most moderate and ordinary description. I am afraid we cannot quite concur with him on that point. But what we rather desire to know is this—Is that Bill going to be reintroduced, and is it going to be hustled through Parliament without the alteration of a word or a line, hustled through one of the Houses of Parliament by the aid of those allies upon whose support. His Majesty's Government depend, and passed through this House by a strain of that Constitution for the effective working of which His Majesty's Govern meat are so solicitous? That is what we are given to understand by that portion of the Press which is supposed to be inspired with regard to these questions. And yet I cannot help hoping that when the noble Earl follows me he will be able to tell us that that is really not what he and his colleagues have in their minds. Can it be, after all that has happened, that the Parliament. Bill is to be thrust on the country without even a respectful consideration of the criticisms which it will encounter?
For what has happened since these proposals first saw the light? In the first place, we have had the Conference. The Conference sat for five months. Now people do not prolong their sittings for five months merely for the purpose of deciding whether they are going to say "Aye" or "No" to a particular measure. The secrets of the Conference have been well respected, but some light has been thrown upon what took place around the Conference table. The Prime Minister—and I do not complain of his statement as being in any way an indiscreet one—speaking in East Fife in December said this of the Conference—it held many sittings; its deliberations extended over many months, and there were moments, many moments indeed, very nearly up to the close of its deliberations, when I myself entertained, when I believe our colleagues in the Conference who represented the other side entertained, something not very far short of a sanguine hope that such a settlement might be reached.Well, if that is a faithful account of what took place, is it conceivable that, the Conference having failed, we are now going to revert to a condition of war a outrance—to a condition of things such as the 27 noble Earl, perhaps thoughtlessly, suggested, when he told us last November that no alternatives were to be discussed, no amendments to be proposed, because it would be waste of time? May I use a simile suggested by a matter which I have been discussing? I cannot bring myself to believe that the noble Earl who, in the calm waters of the Conference, was sailing as a peaceful trader with a cargo of all the Christian virtues, should now reappear amongst us as a belligerent laden with combustibles and munitions of war destined for the destruction of the House of which he is himself a distinguished ornament.
But other things have taken place besides the Conference since these proposals first saw the light. There have been two General Elections. The General Election of January, 1910, dissipated two-thirds of your great majority. A majority of 354 became a majority of 124, a majority composed entirely of your Home Rule and Labour supporters, who acknowledge no real allegiance to you. In December, 1910, you thought you would try your luck again. You were in a hurry. You could not wait for the new register. Why were you so anxious to go to the country again? Ministers themselves explained their reasons with the utmost frankness. I think it was the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who said that they desired to receive a greater measure of authority from the people of this country. It was the Prime Minister who said that they sought for a more emphatic pronouncement of the good will of the people. Did they get it? What they wanted—and there can be no doubt about it—was to get a majority which would emancipate them from the control of the factions upon whom they are now obliged to depend. Are they emancipated? My Lords, the yoke sits exactly where it sat, and if His Majesty's Ministers flinch in their progress they will find that the same whip is cracked on their flanks, the same spur is driven into their sides.
My Lords, something else has happened since these proposals first saw the light. We have made proposals of our own. We have made it perfectly clear to you that we are ready to meet you and to discuss with you such changes as may he necessary, first in the constitution of this House, and next, in the procedure for settling the rela- 28 tions between the two Houses. Are all these proposals to be brushed on one side as though they were not worth the paper on which they are written? We are told that our proposals are vague. I am afraid that my rejoinder to that is that many of you have not been good enough to read them. We are told that there is no common ground between you and us. No common ground, my Lords!Have noble Lords opposite never heard of such things as conferences between the two Houses? Have they never discussed the possibility of a joint sitting of the two Houses, and if it comes to a question of the reform of this House, what, I ask, is the meaning of the Preamble of their own' Bill if it does not mean—and I think the noble Lord the seconder of the Address felt that as he spoke—that the question of House of Lords reform is intimately mixed up with all these other questions? If the Preamble of your Bill is an honest Preamble, it means this, that no final settlement of this question is possible until the question of House of Lords reform has been dealt with. If I am right in saying that, then surely it follows inexorably that this Parliament Bill of yours is a stopgap Bill and ought to be treated as such—that it ought to he treated as a Bill for establishing a modus vivendi between the two Houses pending a solution of the larger question of House of Lords reform. But is the Parliament Bill a stopgap Bill? It is, on the contrary, a Bill for breaking down the barrier and admitting the full flood tide of revolution into our institutions.
I await with intense interest the speech which the noble Earl will presently make to us. I trust he will lay to heart what was said by the noble Lord who seconded the Address. The noble Lord told us that he trusted that a spirit of reason would prevail. We not infrequently notice with pleasure that words of candid friendship fall from the Benches behind noble Lords opposite. I trust the spirit of reason will prevail—I trust that the spirit of the Conference will prevail, and not the spirit of the hustings. If the spirit of the hustings prevails, you may get a settlement, but it will be a settlement which will settle nothing; and the reason why it will settle nothing is this, that it will not have behind it those sanctions which have secured in the past history of our country, even for bitterly debated and highly controversial measures, a permanent and un 29 challenged place amongst the laws by which we are governed.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE EARL OF CREWE)
My Lords, it is my first duty, and it is a pleasant one, to join with the noble Marquess opposite in congratulating my two noble friends behind me on the manner in which they discharged their difficult task. I think that even those who have been longest members of your Lordships' House will be disposed to agree that they have seldom heard the duty discharged more gracefully and in better taste. My noble friend Lord Ilkeston is an old Parliamentary hand, having sat almost continuously in another place since the last Reform Bill, and having there given close attention to and done valuable work in connection with local government and social reform. My noble friend the seconder has also had no inconsiderable Parliamentary experience, but he has also had the advantage of having for three years filled a responsible place in one of the great Dominions, as I think he indicated to us in the course of his speech. I join with the noble Marquess opposite in hoping that both noble Lords will often take part in our debates—a wish which he and I have both on former occasions frequently expressed in reference to the mover and seconder of the Address, but one which has not always been gratified in after years.
We are all in accord with the solemn words of the first paragraph of the gracious Speech. When His Majesty speaks of the loss he has sustained, we, too, know what we have lost, and I am quite certain that none of us will ever forget the stately aspect of the regal figures which stood there [indicating the Throne] last year, and will not stand there again. But, my Lords, we must look forward, and those of us who witnessed the ceremony of to-day, not less splendid and not less dignified, will all join with the whole of the House in wishing that for many years to come His Majesty and his gracious Consort may perform that most significant Constitutional act, when the Sovereign, in addressing the Estates of the Realm, speaks to the people and for the people over whom he rules. And I think that many of those who were present to-day could not avoid a feeling of gratification and relief in observing that when His Majesty declared 30 himself a faithful defender of that palladium of our Constitution, the Protestant Succession, he was able to do so, thanks to the measure which your Lordships almost unanimously joined in passing, without giving pain or offence to any section of his subjects.
The next paragraph of the Speech deals with the visit of the illustrious Duke to South Africa. We have had the advantage of hearing from the illustrious Duke himself, when he was entertained by the City of London, his experiences of that tour; but we are happy in this place also to express our sense of the great Imperial service which he thereby performed in taking the place which His Majesty was unhappily prevented from taking himself. I have every reason to know, as indeed we have all heard, that the reception given to His Royal Highness and the illustrious ladies who accompanied him was through out of the most cordial character. I cannot help thinking that nothing can have struck His Royal Highness more in the course of that tour than the fact that just as he went through his work there and spoke as man to man without any feeling in his mind of differences of race among those whom he addressed, so no differences of race were allowed to interfere with the cordiality of the welcome he received. Perhaps I may be allowed to add a word of gratification that the illustrious Duke was enabled to visit Rhodesia, a country of which we entertain high hopes, and which is now, I hope, able to speak of itself as looking forward with a rising barometer.
As the noble Marquess observed, the phrase in the Speech that the relations of the Crown with foreign Powers continue to be friendly is one almost of common form. But I hope it may be taken on this occasion as meaning a little more than common form, as meaning that where any difficulties have existed there is a cordial and active desire to diminish and even if possible to sweep them away. The noble Marquess has alluded to the Japanese Treaty. I am afraid I am not in a position to go into any detail on that subject, owing to the fact that the negotiations are not concluded. But I am certain that. although the matter, as the noble Marquess pointed out, must be a difficult one, our Japanese friends have entered into the negotiations with every desire to 31 meet us and the claims and necessities of our trade, so far as it is possible for them to do so.
The only other topic of foreign affairs mentioned in the Speech is that of Persia. The question of the southern roads of Persia has, of course, caused His Majesty's Government great anxiety, and my right hon. friend has received many communications from Chambers of Commerce and other bodies interested in trade, complaining of the state of things on the trade roads in Southern Persia. We have to bear in mind that in such a country as Persia political unrest has effects upon trade which it need not necessarily have in more settled countries. It would be quite possible in some countries to have no inconsiderable degree of political unrest existing and yet for trade to be carried on as usual; but in a country like Persia, where trade is carried on by means of caravans and where the form which unrest takes is attack by tribesmen on those caravans, the difficulties of the Central Government react at once and on the largest scale upon the trade of the country. That is the reason why we have felt ourselves obliged to make representations to the Persian Government. At the same time, there has been some improvement, and we desire, as the noble Marquess, I think, seemed to consider not unreasonable, to be as patient as possible in this matter. It would be, I confess, with no little reluctance—and here I speak also from the point of view of the Department which I have the honour to represent—that we would undertake even the moderate step of lending Indian officers for the purpose of organising Persian police—a step which was indicated as possible by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State—because we desire as far as possible to see Persia self-sustained and progressing on her own lines through her own people. Of course the time may come when it may be necessary for us, and when Persia may fully agree, that some outside aid is required. But I repeat there is no desire on our part to offer that particular aid even to so moderate an extent.
The Speech goes on to speak of two events of the highest Imperial interest which are to take place within the present year. The first is the Imperial Conference which has now, I hope, come to be regarded as a matter of course. It has ceased to be 32 the nine-days wonder that it was when it was first initiated, and it is looked upon now perhaps with less excitement, but; certainly with no less interest, and in a more businesslike fashion. Since the last meeting of the Conference there has been a continuous interchange of communication between this country and the self-governing Dominions upon many points of interest likely to be raised at the coming Conference, and there have also been subsidiary Conferences dealing with important questions, as, for instance, Imperial defence and international copyright. One thing I may venture to say about the coming Conference, and it is this, that I hope an agreement will be reached to render it less socially strenuous to those who take part in it than past Conferences have been. It must be remembered that the Ministers who come here representing the great Dominions are not all of them young men or strong men; and although we quite understand the very natural and praiseworthy desire of all manner of societies, associations, and clubs to entertain and do honour to our distinguished visitors, I hope that some self-denial will be exercised by those bodies, and that we may arrive at an agreement only to do honour to the Colonial Ministers on some few occasions which may be described as almost of national importance. When you come to think of it, it is not really a compliment to these gentlemen, whom we ought to regard as our fellow-subjects and fellow-workers, to treat them as we might treat sonic distant Oriental potentate who came to England for the first and only time, whereas the oftener we see our friends from the Dominions the better we are all pleased.
Then the Speech goes on to mention the forthcoming visit of His Majesty to India to hold a Durbar and there announce the ceremony of his Coronation. I am glad to be able to say that active steps are already being taken in India in making arrangements for the great celebration at Delhi. They have been placed in the charge of a committee presided over by one of the most able of Indian officials, Sir John Hewett, and under the close personal supervision of my noble friend the Viceroy. We hope, therefore, that the arrangements will be found to be worthy of the occasion, and that they will carry out what seem to me to be the two conditions which are needed for such a ceremony—in the first place, that the actual func- 33 tion should be of the most stately and dignified character; and secondly, that as many as possible of His Majesty's Indian subjects should have the opportunity of looking on the face of their Emperor. Perhaps before I leave the subject of India I may he allowed also to express our gratification at the successful and enjoyable tour which His Imperial Highness the German Crown Prince has lately taken in that country.
The noble Marquess commented upon the somewhat jejune character of the sentences in the Speech addressed to the Gentlemen of the House of Commons, and pointed out that in former years it was almost the invariable custom to state that the Estimates had been framed with a due regard to economy. Perhaps it was, but I do not know that it was always true, and in the circumstances it is perhaps as well that the statement should not become a common form in the Speech. We hope, indeed, that when the Estimates are presented to the House of Commons they will he found to have been framed with a due regard to economy, because, after all—and I know I shall have the approval of your Lordships in this—it is not always the lowest Estimates which are the most economical. But, of course, it is everybody's desire to keep the Estimates down as far as possible. The noble Marquess digressed somewhat into a disquisition on the treatment of Parliament with reference to finance. It is quite true that the whole Parliamentary situation on the subject of finance has become anomalous and inconvenient. But we on this side of the House trace that. unfortunate circumstance to the rejection by your Lordships of the Budget of 1909. When the noble Marquess speaks of the Budget of the now current year as not yet having been passed, he is aware, of course, that that phrase is liable to some misunderstanding. No tax is standing over; all the taxes are now collected by the law of the land; and although it is true that certain matters of machinery were left over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for discussion in another place, yet to speak of the Budget as not having been passed seems to me to be a scarcely accurate description of the situation as it is.
Then the noble Marquess spoke of the two Bills which find a place after the notice of the Constitutional measure. Cer 34 tainly we do not anticipate that any serious objection will be taken from the other side to the measure for securing the permanent provision of old-age pensions for those disqualified by reason of having received poor relief, because those who look back to the debates on the Old-Age Pensions Bill in another place will recall that such was the anxiety at that time shown by some supporters of noble Lords opposite for the inclusion of this particular provision in the measure, that, although they were told that at that time no money was forthcoming for the purpose, they were quite ready to imperil the entire measure in order to get that provision inserted. Therefore we feel sure that on this occasion we shall enjoy their warm support. The questions of insurance against invalidity and unemployment are of the greatest gravity and importance, and I was grateful to the noble Marquess for the assurance that they would receive fair consideration at the hands of your Lordships. They are questions of the greatest difficulty. They have been solved to some extent in some countries. In Germany a solution which I believe is not an unsatisfactory one has been found. In Switzerland, unless I am mistaken, a strongly-backed demand for something of the kind failed when it was submitted to the panacea of noble Lords opposite—namely, the Referendum. The difficulty which surrounds these questions is that, demanding as they do the active concurrence and co-operation of the working classes themselves, they are not measures which in any sense can he imposed on the country by Parliament. There already exist great, and in many ways most successful, agencies for dealing with sickness; and it is an indispensable condition, if these measures are to be carried at all, that the great mass of public opinion, including those who have hitherto done so much by purely voluntary effort, should be enlisted in their support. The object is one, I think, to which the best wits and brains of the country may most usefully be applied. These are in no sense Party measures, and I hope, therefore, that they will be carried to a conclusion without arousing any kind of Party feeling.
Next the noble Marquess asked me about sonic measures which do not appear in the King's Speech. I think that since some years ago the habit has arisen of including an almost excessive number of measures in the gracious Speech. The 35 Speech may seem, and evidently does seem, to the noble Marquess opposite to err in the opposite direction. But we have, in view of the great Constitutional question, on which I shall say a word directly, abstained from going beyond those measures which, as the Speech says, are presented "in pursuance of intentions already declared." But I am able to answer the noble Marquess's question as regards the payment of Members. It undoubtedly is the intention of His Majesty's Government to deal with that question, as was categorically stated by my right hon. friend the Prime Minister during the course of the last Session, and it is our intention to deal, to the extent which was stated by the Prime Minister on the same occasion, with the situation created by the Osborne judgment.
With regard to payment of Members the noble Marquess spoke with some severity, and he looked forward sadly to a time when the House of Commons would be—I think the word "degraded" would perhaps not be too strong to use—by the adoption of this particular reform. I quite admit that, to all of us, the idea of gratuitous service, so freely rendered as it has been in this country by those who are able to give it, is an attractive one, and we all I think lament it when the time arrives in any particular case when a change has to be made. But if it can be pointed out that by depending on gratuitous service only you are, in effect, depriving a large number of persons who might be good and worthy members of Parliament of an opportunity of filling that position, then, however reluctantly, you may have to give up your old system. I cannot forget that there are many, including active and brilliant members of the Party of the noble Marquess, who are active supporters of this principle, and I have heard with some surprise the very doleful forecast which he gave of the probable results of this measure. I do not myself believe that those forecasts are justified. It is reasonable to remember that, although we may think that our Parliament is the best in the world, yet there are others which cannot be spoken of in terms of absolute contempt, including the Parliaments in our great Dominions, and including, for instance, that South African Parliament which we inaugurated the other day with so much enthusiasm and good will. Well, those are all paid, and I think it would rather surprise our 36 coming visitors from the Colonies if they had to believe that we regarded their Assemblies with almost the contempt which the noble Marquess seemed to pour upon a paid Assembly. The noble Marquess said—"Where are you going to stop; how are you going to avoid paying county councils and other bodies?" Well, in the case of foreign countries and in the great self-governing Dominions those bodies also exist, but they are not paid, and I think it will be found that all over Canada and Australia the municipal bodies equivalent to our county councils are in the main unpaid bodies. Therefore it does not seem as though that result need necessarily follow the institution of a system of payment of Members.
I omitted to answer the question which the noble Marquess asked me with regard to the state of affairs in Macedonia. I can assure him that my right hon. friend and his Department will not fail to watch most carefully all the accounts which they receive of what is happening there. Nor, I think, shall I be wrong in saying that I am quite certain that if opportunity occurs my right hon. friend will not fail to convey to the Turkish Government the feelings of pain with which public opinion in this country must receive reports of the kind which the noble Marquess has mentioned—assuming, of course, that those reports are well founded. We all, I am sure, hope that the Turkish Government will recognise the responsibility which they have for the fair treatment of all races and creeds in that part of the Empire over which the Sultan rules.
My Lords, I now come to the Constitutional question. The mover of the Address dealt with the question very moderately and with a mature sagacity which, I feel sure, must have impressed the House. The noble Marquess asked whether the Parliament Bill will receive full discussion. It has already received and its principles have received some degree of discussion. The Resolutions upon which it is founded were discussed, I do not say at great length, but at some length, in another place and we had the somewhat short discussion in this House at the end of last Session—a discussion which, of course, was shortened, so far as the Parliament Bill was concerned, by the fact that your Lordships desired to discuss a great many other topics besides the Bill itself. But it is certainly 37 our desire that the Parliament Bill should receive a full measure of discussion both in another place and here, and so far as possible we shall do what we can to achieve that result.
The position is somewhat changed from what it was when we separated last year. At that time I said that the Bill was placed before your Lordships' House, but that it was useless from our point of view at that time to begin amending it, because we had determined that the only possible course for us to take was to ask the opinion of the country on the subject. We asked for the opinion of the country and we got it. I look back to the year 1900. You asked for the opinion of the country; you got it, and with a somewhat reduced majority. I never heard it then hinted that you did not regard yourselves entitled to proceed with the task with which you considered yourselves to be entrusted by the country—that of the settlement in South Africa—and you proceeded with it on lines which were certainly not approved by a great number of people in the country. You also took advantage of that majority to deal with other large questions in the way which suited you best. What more can a Government ask when it goes to the country for a vote of confidence than to receive that vote of confidence?
The noble Marquess talked of our having dropped our majority of 1906 when we went to the country in January, 1910. Does the noble Marquess imagine—it is too great a compliment to us to suppose—that the majority of 1906 represents the normal majority of the Liberal Party in this country? When we went to the country in 1906 we had the inestimable advantage of the fact that noble Lords opposite had been in office for ten years. I frankly admit that until that is repeated, as I suppose it will be some day, we shall never be able to hope for a similar result. We went to the country this time, as I say, for a vote of confidence. We had been given to understand, and I do not know that it has been contradicted, that the election of January, 1910, was considered to be a verdict for the Budget, but must not be taken as a verdict for very much else; and I feel perfectly certain that if we had chosen to go on and to discuss the Constitutional question, instead of advising His Majesty to dissolve Parliament, we should at every turn, in this House, in another place, and in the country, have 38 been perpetually met by the taunt—"After all, you have no right to claim that you have the confidence of the country for this particular measure; what the country did say was that it liked various clauses of the Budget which the House of Lords did not like—that is the only vote of confidence you have got, and you are not entitled to proceed with this Constitutional question." Now, at any rate, there is no dispute that the last election was fought on this Constitutional question, and having regard to the fact that all Governments as they go on tend to depreciate their own majority, tend to make enemies, tend to annoy powerful interests, I look upon it as one of the most remarkable instances of confidence in the whole history of this country that we should have been able to retain our majority unimpaired.
The noble Marquess made a moving appeal to us about the Constitution. He quoted the words in the Speech—the more effective working of the Constitution—as though it had worked arid would continue to work. But what are the noble Marquess's own proposals with regard to the Constitution? He is going to replace your Lordships' House, if he has the power, by what in the well-known phrase I may call a tesselated pavement—a House composed of all manner of elements, of pieces of mosaic not altogether described; and what is more than that, he is going to ask both Houses of Parliament and the country to embark upon the most novel, and, as I think, the most dangerous experiment that has ever been tried in the Constitution of this country, in the form of a popular Referendum. After that it is really useless to speak of us as interfering with the Constitution, because whether you like our proposals or not, or whether you desire to suggest amendments to them—to which, of course, we should respectfully listen—I do not see how you can dispute it that the Constitutional changes proposed by noble Lords opposite are infinitely more far-reaching and strike harder and more deeply at the life of the Constitution than anything we have proposed.
The noble Marquess mentioned two other subjects on which I ought to say a word. He spoke of the Declaration of London, and I was again grateful for a certain caution which he gave. So far as I have had the opportunity of reading comments upon the situation created by the promulgation of the Declaration of London, 39 it seems to me that many people are disposed to forget that it is not a question of our being able to promulgate and enforce a system of international law which we should select if we had the sole making of it, having regard to our dependence on foreign food supplies, to our insular position, and to our place as the greatest naval Power in the world; the question is—are you going to get by international agreement, as international agreement there must be, some system which will place you in a stronger position, or at any rate in no worse a position, than if no such agreement was made? The question therefore to be asked of these provisions, of any particular provision, is whether it places us in a better or a worse position than if the Declaration of London were not promulgated and affirmed. I do not want to dwell on this subject now. In the first place, it is going to be discussed at the Imperial Conference, and in the second place there will be opportunities later before there is any question of its being ratified, of discussion both in another place and here.
The other point to which the noble Marquess alluded was that of the arrangements between the United States and Canada. He spoke of them as having come about because Canada had knocked in vain at our door. I wonder if that is an observation which can be sustained by historical evidence. Does that mean to say that supposing we had entered into a preferential arrangement with Canada founded on the advantage of one or two shillings on Canadian wheat Canada would not be tempted at any time, or at any rate within any reasonable time, to enter into any agreement of Reciprocity with the United States? Can that be sustained? And supposing it could, would not the fact give rise to this further reflection—supposing it were the case that Canada really was debarred by a treaty of a preferential character with us from entering into such an arrangement with the United States, though it would be advantageous for her to do so, as she now thinks, would that tend to strengthen the Imperial tie? This seems to me to be precisely one of the points on which we have always laid stress in speaking of this question—that the time would come when your preferential arrangements would interfere with a great Dominion doing something which for other reasons it would wish to do; and I can 40 conceive that that might place a strain upon loyalty which it would be difficult to bear. I [...]ve an unbounded belief in the loyalty of the Canadian Dominion to the Imperial connection and to the Crown, and I do not myself see anything in this Reciprocity arrangement, even supposing it to come into force in the form in which it has been published, which need either at once or in the long run have any effect in weakening the tie between us and Canada. Although I do not expect to have convinced in every case noble Lords opposite, I hope I have not left untouched any topic raised in the noble Marquess's speech.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ Committee for Privileges—Appointed.
§ Committee for the Journals—Appointed.
§ Stoppages in the Streets—Order to prevent, renewed.
§ Appeal Committee—Appointed.