My Lords, the gracious Speech from the Throne indicates many questions to be submitted to the consideration of Parliament which are undoubtedly controversial, and will in their discussion call out strongly divergent and even discordant appreciations. It is, however, gratifying to us all that the first topic on which I address your Lordships is one in which I shall, though inadequately, express the unanimous sense of the House. We all rejoice that the journey to India has been so successful in all its objects. We rejoice that it has resulted in such a strong manifestation of the loyalty and good will of the Princes and people of India, and that the personal recognition by the King of his obligations towards the hundreds of millions of our Indian fellow-subjects has called out a feeling of grateful appreciation evinced, as His Majesty tells us, not only officially but by the spontaneous expression of dutiful affection from all classes and sections of the Indian people. Although a cloud of family sorrow has darkened the return of their Majesties, on which we venture to offer our respectful sympathy, yet we may express our loyal 5 satisfaction that from a public point of view the journey has been accomplished without any mishap or serious drawback, and we hope that the policy which His Majesty was advised by his Ministers to proclaim to his Indian subjects may increase the stability of his Indian Empire and reconcile the discordant feelings which had been aroused by previous administrative decisions.
Passing on now to matters upon which I cannot hope to anticipate equal unanimity when they come up for definitive discussion in this House, I may nevertheless appeal to your Lordships to give them, not only fair consideration, but some measure of a friendly appreciation which may result in some conclusion to be reached not without a substantial measure of assent from both sides of the House. And first as to the Bill foreshadowed to deal with the voting qualifications of electors. I think I may appeal to your Lordships to consider the great expediency of simplifying our terribly complicated laws which affect the registration and qualification of voters. Surely we may all unite in endeavouring to secure that a person qualified to vote shall come on the register at the earliest possible moment and not have a long period of suspended electoral vitality interposed between the acquisition of the qualification and its effective exercise; and also that a person passing from one district to another should at once be put on the new register as soon as he loses his old qualifications. The complicated provisions of registration impose great expense on political organisations with no gain to any but to that expensive army of political agents which both Parties have to maintain. I think I may also appeal to your Lordships to give effect to the sound principle that a voter should vote once and not more than once. When the Referendum was under consideration, though no machinery was devised or suggested for framing an electoral roll, yet the leaders of the Conservative Party admitted that the voters on such a poll should vote once and once only. This principle is not less expedient for ordinary elections, and it is not less desirable because it is not coupled with what i agree is also a desirable change which is popularly expressed as "one vote one value," now widely advocated by Conservatives, and which is equivalent to the establishment of equal or approximately equal electoral districts.
6 But, my Lords, there are two measures of special importance—the Bill dealing with the Established Church in Wales and the Bill extending a measure of local self-government in Ireland—which will undoubtedly occupy the greater part of the time of Parliament and absorb the greater part of public interest. I turn first to the one which we understand is to come first on the Government programme—the Bill for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Wales. This, my Lords, is no new proposal, and we have in Ireland a precedent of accomplished legislation on the same subject. What are some of the arguments by which such a proposal may be supported? First of all, I submit that the principle of State Establishment and preferential treatment of any form of religion or religious organisation is not in accordance with the present view of the great mass of statesmen. Would any Minister in organising the Government and constitution of a newly settled Colony or Dependency dream of introducing the principle of an Established Church or of concurrent endowment of all ecclesiastical bodies, or propose any State interference and control in reference to matters theological and ecclesiastical? It may be said, even if we would not do this if we had tabula rasa, it is a different proposition to disturb existing arrangements, the inheritance of centuries, especially if it could be added that these arrangements work smoothly and are acceptable to the population concerned. I quite admit this. I remember that Mr. Gladstone, after he had come to the conclusion that the old arguments by which he defended the union of Church and State had lost their validity, nevertheless shrank from touching the Establishment in this country, partly from feelings of deep-rooted sentiment, and partly because he felt that Governments could not outrun public opinion, and that it was rather their duty to formulate legislation for which public opinion was ripe than to be the missionaries of new views not generally accepted, even though those views were shared by them.
Can it be said that the Established Church in Wales satisfies the conditions under which a legal settlement which we would not now create may be allowed to continue? A Conservative may think the precept Quieta non movere a sound one, but can any one consider that that maxim applies to the Welsh Establishment? The 7 Parliamentary representatives of Wales, sometimes by a majority of ten to one, sometimes unanimously, tell you that their electors desire complete religious equality and complete severance of the State from all ecclesiastical matters in the Principality. If you look at the facts as to the religious preferences of the people, without haggling over disputed figures, I have no doubt that of all the people adhering to some form of religious belief not more than a fourth profess to belong to the Established Church. Visit Wales and you find throughout the length and breadth of the land, in new populous industrial districts, in sparsely peopled mountainous tracts, among the rows of workmen's cottages and at lonely cross roads, the places of worship erected by the voluntary effort mainly of the poorer classes. In fact, the Nonconformists are reproached with building chapels beyond all possible needs of the population.
We are told that of late years the Church of England has been active and has gained ground. No doubt there has been an immense change for the better if we compare the condition of the Established Church seventy years ago and at the present day; and I think that Anglican activity, especially in the populous and growing districts of South Wales, has been largely the result of voluntary effort and does not owe very much to State Establishment. No doubt Church extension in Wales has been materially subsidised by the financial resources of the general Establishment through the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commission and Queen Anne's Bounty; but the progress of the Anglicans in Wales is mainly due to their own activity and their own efforts. I have seen figures quoted showing how, in active centres of Anglican ecclesiastical life where large sums amounting to thousands a year are raised voluntarily, the State endowment amounts now to a few hundreds, and by the operation of this Bill the hundreds would shrink to tens. But the inference I draw is not that which is suggested by those who circulate these figures. The activity which results from the necessity for self-reliance and personal effort exists already, and will only become greater when those who now are limited as well as helped by legal establishment will have more perfect freedom and a greater sense of personal responsibility in the common government of the branch of the Church to which they belong.
8 My Lords, I think it is a good thing to study questions historically and to understand how the present has grown out of the past. But, after all, in dealing with political questions it is the present which chiefly concerns us. The origin of the legal obligation to pay tithes, the early endowments of bishoprics and monasteries, the growth of the parochial system—all these matters are interesting, but they are not directly germane to the legislation proposed. Whether the Church of England is one with the Church of Rome and continuous or not is, perhaps, interesting to theologians but not to statesmen. The Tudor settlement which we call the Reformation, while maintaining and enforcing the obligations of all to conform to one legally recognised type of religion, settled that those who a few years before were burnt as heretics should alone enjoy the revenues and dignities of the Church, and not only that, but that those who were dispossessed and were formerly the executioners should now be subject to severe penalties for not submitting to the new state of things, penalties which in some cases were those inflicted for high treason.
When we are told that it would be better to take Church funds and devote them to some new ecclesiastical body rather than apply them to secular uses, I cannot help thinking that those who propose this doctrine would be sorry to be taken at their word. When all life interests and other claims for compensation have been settled, there may be some £100,000 or £150,000 of present value available for general Welsh purposes of public utility from the funds of the Church. Surely it is better that this money should go to purposes of public advantage which will benefit all and raise the standard of civilization in Wales rather than that the State should follow the Tudor example and, while preserving legal continuity, establish a body which should condemn or set aside the doctrines and teaching of the present Church and affirm doctrines repugnant to that Church. But whatever the theoretic value of the suggestion may be it is an idle one, since the Nonconformist bodies do not ask for or want your money. They want religion to recommend itself to the free assent of the faithful of each generation, and they do not want the theology of the sixteenth century to be fixed as the standard for all time. Still less do they want, through the inevitable decay of 9 enforced uniformity of doctrine, a free hand to be given to those who use the endowments and privileged position of an Established Protestant Church in order to reintroduce what are practically Roman Catholic ritual and doctrine, and who openly proclaim, in name as well as in substance, that the clergy are sacrificing priests and that the communion is the mass and the consecrated elements are to be worshipped. My Lords, I venture to say this confidently, that when all religious bodies and all religious opinions in Wales are put on one level of citizenship with no privileges or State aid for any, the sectarian animosities which now exist will tend to diminish, and the Welsh people will be more free to approach political questions without the Party obligation to support those who would give them this equality and to oppose those who would maintain a privileged Church.
I now turn, my Lords, to the contemplated legislation for Ireland which foreshadows some scheme of Home Rule. As to this, without attempting to forecast what will be the provisions of the Bill which we shall see hereafter, I think I shall have the concurrence of all when I say that the problem which the Government have set before themselves for solution is one of extreme difficulty, that problem being the granting of local self-government, legislation, and executive administration to Ireland while retaining the substantial unity of the United Kingdom in all matters beyond those of purely local concern, and along with this retaining the effective supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and, I will add, of the Executive responsible to that Parliament. The Parliamentary history of the last twenty-six years records successive failures to solve this problem. And I will say for myself that I will support no illusory solution which offers mere phrases and does not give effective and direct power for the purpose of maintaining the paramount rights of the United Kingdom. But, of course, the time for examining the Bill, and, if necessary, for amending it so as to secure that the assurances of the Government shall have adequate effect given to them in the clauses of the Bill, will be when the Bill becomes public property and its clauses, as they certainly will be, are subjected to a careful scrutiny in the Press, on the platform, and in both Houses of Parliament. Meantime I would make an earnest 10 appeal to your Lordships and to all those whom you can influence to approach this question, if you can, with the purpose of conciliation and of bringing about a settlement. My Lords, this question has been before the country for twenty-six years since a responsible Government first made definite proposals for its solution, and it has agitated the minds and determined the policy of the majority of the Irish people for a much longer period.
I feel myself, great as are the dangers, great as are the difficulties in dealing with the matter, that it is urgent for us to try and settle it, not by a mere non possumus, but by a readiness to concede much which may even in our judgment be less desirable, if by doing so we can reconcile the two nationalities while maintaining the effective legislative and administrative unity of these islands. I do not urge this from fear of any injury that a discontented Ireland can inflict upon us. The whole population of Ireland is now only about one-eleventh of the population of the United Kingdom, and of the Irish population not three-fourths are unreconciled, and I do not believe, that those three-fourths are irreconcilable. But we want something more than sullen submission with occasional outbreaks on one side; something better than arrogant repression on the other. We have against us a heavy weight of bad traditions and bad memories of an unhappy past when we and those who call themselves the loyal party in Ireland united to depress and oppress the mass of the population. Surely, my Lords, the spirit in which we should now approach this question should be one of anxious desire to conciliate and reconcile, and a willingness to run some risks for the sake of a possible—may I say a probable?—national benefit of immense importance.
And, my Lords, may I remind you, without introducing a tone of Party recrimination, from which I should hope our future debates would as far as possible be free, that both sides have, I will not say trifled with the question, but have certainly from time to time allowed glimpses to be caught of a possible willingness to entertain special legislation for Ireland which should concede some measure of special local autonomy. I record Lord Salisbury's celebrated speech at Newport where he spoke of the relations of Austria and Hungary as deserving special study. May 11 I say that that was an unfortunate illustration, as the duality of Austria and Hungary far exceeds any concession of local self-government that would in my opinion be suitable between Great Britain and Ireland. I consider that the alliance brought about through Lord Randolph Churchill with Mr. Parnell whereby Mr. Gladstone's Government was defeated in 1885 did more than anything to bring Home Rule within the range of action of responsible statesmen. I have always understood that it was the concession of an inquiry into the trials and executions for the Maantrasna murders that determined Lord Spencer's acceptance of a policy of Home Rule, for he felt that unless the Irish Executive was supported by both great Parties in Parliament government as then administered became impossible. I need not refer to the most recent ebullitions of a Sunday paper to show that the idea of some form of Home Rule was lately entertained within the ranks of the Conservatives, if thereby the old power of the House of Lords could be preserved. I hope your Lordships will excuse me for these references and not suppose that I make them as though I were the pot bandying abuse with the kettle. I touch upon them to show that for some time both Parties have recognised that the status quo was becoming, I will not say impossible to maintain, but more and more difficult, and more and more exposed to criticism which is hard to refute.
I would appeal to the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and who therefore leads, not the House, but the overwhelming majority of this House, whether he, with his great knowledge of Ireland and with, I am sure, his great sympathy with the Irish people, does not earnestly long to find some way of escape from the bitter consequences of the past. My Lords, my task in dealing with this question of Ireland is not an easy one.Incedo per ignes Suppositos cineri doloso.I am as resolved as ever that I will be no party to legislation which breaks up the effective unity for Imperial purposes of the United Kingdom. If Ireland were in the South Pacific we could have a Colonial solution, and make that country as independent as Australia or Canada. But we cannot do this, and the solution is therefore more complicated. Let us, however, approach the task not with a desire to 12 influence passion or under pretence of extreme loyalty to threaten Civil War. Confident that many of your Lordships are as anxious as I am for a peaceful, safe, and lasting settlement, I trust you will not only to-day vote the Address in reply to the gracious Speech, but will at a later date endeavour, even at some sacrifice of our own conviction of what is absolutely best, concede something to those dissenting and even hostile convictions which now cherish a deep-rooted unfriendliness in Ireland and among those of Irish race in Great Britain, in our Colonies, and in the great American Republic. I beg to move.
§ LORD FURNESS
My Lords, although a newcomer to this historic Assembly, I have been here long enough to realise that a speaker rising for the first time, especially in performing the honourable duty allotted to me this afternoon, may feel assured of receiving every consideration from your Lordships. I have singular pleasure in seconding the Address on an occasion so profoundly interesting. This first Parliament summoned by His Majesty King George V will undoubtedly leave an exceptional impress upon the pages of history. But, however important may be the other contributory causes, none, I venture to say, will prove so illustrious and beneficent as the sojourn of the Sovereign and his gracious Consort in India, so happily inspired and so satisfactorily conducted. While echoing sincerely the language of His Majesty's Speech in this regard, I am sure that your Lordships will gladly recognise that the King's initiative and enterprise in this particular has vastly enlarged the capacity and opportunities of the Monarchy for the improvement of the lot of the Peoples. I so fully endorse the sentiments expressed by my noble friend the mover of the Address, that I feel I shall best meet the circumstances of the hour and the wishes of the House by passing on at once to that part of His Majesty's Speech relating to a subject of the highest importance of which I have intimate knowledge and experience.
The most disquieting element manifest at the moment is the latest phase of the differences between Capital and Labour. This is no question of Party politics: all shades of opinion can and surely ought to unite in an effort to solve the greatest domestic problem which lies immediately in front of us. Just now the kingdom rests 13 under a heavy cloud of industrial controversy, but I have little doubt that if all of us resolve honestly to bring to its consideration our entire experience and resource the difficulties may be overcome. The keystone which holds us together as a community is our sense of individual responsibility, and both Capital and Labour must shoulder their respective responsibilities, just as they accept the privileges which the progress of civilisation has conferred. I sometimes fear that these organised forces do not realise as fully as they might their responsibilities to the nation at large. Their tenacity to their conception of their respective rights and duties has a tendency to magnify rather than appease the differences which arise from time to time, and, as a consequence, drive apart instead of welding together those workmen and employers who are on a footing of cordial relations, and would naturally prefer to remain undisturbed in pleasant co-operation were they permitted to do so by their respective Federations.
Of one thing there can be no possible doubt: the restlessness and uncertainty of the industrial situation are working incalculable harm to our trade supremacy. What, then, is the remedy for a state of things so menacing to the prosperity and strength of our country? It is true that the conditions of modern industry have eliminated that close personal contact and association which formerly existed between the employer and his workmen; it is equally true that the development of industry—apart from this lack of personal association—has given the workman very much more than did the old system, whether as to time or money. So important is the advantage of personal contact between employer and employed and the close identification of the interests of both, that it is highly desirable to have this ready intercourse in some form largely reintroduced. In the pressure of circumstances its claims have been neglected. To-day it is asserting its importance with no uncertain voice.
Given an understanding spirit, assuming a right temper, I know nothing in the circumstances of industry to-day to prevent a peaceful solution of the difficulties that from time to time arise. I do not suggest that the solution will be found either easily or quickly. It is a tiresome and trying business, and therein lies a 14 difficulty. Over a long series of years efforts have been made, by arbitration, by conciliation boards, and by direct negotiation, to settle disputes without a resort to barbarous methods. But since the formation of Employers' Federations and Workmen's Federations there is, I fear, developing a too ready disposition on both sides to cling to the spirit of the strike and the lock-out. With the expansion of industry you have on the one hand the huge combinations of capital necessary to successful production on modern lines; on the other, great masses of workers arrayed in equally solid combinations. So that any serious contention between the two results in suffering and loss, not only to the parties immediately concerned, but even more so to the community as individuals and through its business ramifications to the nation as a whole.
On the men's side there is the steady increase of grievances to be dealt with at their head-quarters; the process of settlement cannot keep pace with it, and the accumulation of these grievances accentuates the feeling of soreness that originally prompted them. On the employers' side there is the consciousness that much valuable time of responsible officials is given up to the consideration and settlement of disputes, coupled with the knowledge that such settlement as is arrived at may not be respected by the men whose leaders have agreed to it, on their behalf, as their accredited official representatives. That sort of proceeding, apart from its moral aspect, is totally opposed to the necessities of modern business, which is everywhere engaged in eliminating unnecessary and wasteful elements in costs of production. For friction, with its losses and wastes, we need to substitute consolidation of interests with harmonious association. My own feeling is that much irritation arises from the over-centralisation of these matters by employers and workmen alike.
The difficulties which now so seriously handicap industry would largely vanish if grievances could be at once dealt with on the spot where they arise, before large bodies of men become disaffected. That was an outstanding feature of the co-partnery scheme which I tried in my shipyards. A works' council was formed, and there were on it officials of the yards and representatives appointed by the workmen 15 engaged in the various trades of the industry. That council dealt at once with the troubles which arose in those shipyards from time to time, whilst through it the workmen received information relating to the course and conditions of trade. The spirit of amity was cultivated, and on that side the co-partnery was an undoubted success. It was given a twelve months' trial, the men having undertaken that in no circumstances would they strike, whilst the firm bound itself not to resort to a lock-out. Unfortunately, the renewal of the scheme was affected by external conditions that were brought to bear upon the men who had worked under it, so that the promising situation in the co-partnery yards came to an end. Both employers and workmen know full well that the strike and the lock-out are barbarous weapons, but they do not yet seem to have arrived at the point of realising that such methods are entirely ineffective for the purpose of permanently settling disputes. There is urgent need for a thorough understanding of this aspect of the case and the education of both parties upon the question. Some ask, Why not make strikes and locks-out illegal? I fear the temper of our people, whether employers or workmen, would resent bitterly so large an interference with their personal liberty. For my part, I believe that reason will always secure what will be denied to force.
In my judgment, co-partnery in one form or another will ultimately be found to be a solution satisfactory to all concerned. Granted that co-partnery is suspect both amongst workmen and employers, yet I am convinced that a careful examination of its methods must demonstrate the merits of the system to any mind that is at all free from bias. So great is my faith in co-partnery as a practical solution of this industrial problem that one is tempted to counsel His Majesty's Government that it could render few services of more vital importance at this time than by advising the Sovereign to appoint a Royal Commission for the purpose of reporting upon the value and expediency of the remedy of co-partnery as a means of ending industrial strife in our midst. It is hard to believe that, if the principles and practice of co-partnery were minutely and candidly discussed, both the leaders of the employing class and the leaders of Labour would not arrive at the conclusion that in the interests of our common country it was their bounden 16 duty to give the remedy a sympathetic trial. And in any event, I earnestly believe that if the chieftains of Capital and Labour persist in using against each other the weapon of stubborn tenacity, and refuse to walk in ways more in harmony with common sense, they will inflict upon the nation, and at no distant date, one of the gravest injuries it has ever sustained in the whole course of our history. I beg to second the Address.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne.—(Lord Sheffield.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, upon this occasion His Majesty's Government have rather conspicuously departed from what was at one time a more or less established practice in regard to the selection of the Peers to whom was assigned the difficult task of moving and seconding the Address. I can remember the time when such Peers were generally selected on the ground that they had yet their Parliamentary spurs to win, and there was a consecrated phrase usually employed by the Leader of the Opposition, who congratulated the mover and the seconder, always with an added expression of the hope that, encouraged by their success, they would take a frequent part in the discussions in this House. To-day I feel myself debarred from the use of that consecrated phrase. My noble friend the mover is not only a frequent but a formidable participator in our debates—formidable occasionally even to those who sit immediately around him. The noble Lord who seconded comes to us with considerable experience of the House of Commons, and with all the weight and authority which belongs not only to a great employer of labour, but to one whose name is identified with a courageous experiment for the purpose of bridging over in that reasonable spirit which is referred to in His Majesty's gracious Speech the unfortunate gulf which at present too often separates Capital and Labour. I am sure the House listened with interest to what he had to say as to co-partnership. For myself I feel strongly that any one who is able to bring a substantial contribution to the solution of these all-important problems deserves the gratitude of the whole community. I was almost tempted to say that the selection of two such noble Lords seems to us an 17 indication that His Majesty's Government were perhaps conscious that their case was rather a difficult one, and that it therefore stood in need of two such strong exponents.
May I be allowed to associate myself with all that was said by the noble mover in regard to the visit of their Majesties to their Indian Dominions? We expected that that visit would be a successful one, but I think we may say, quoting the words used by the King himself in a Message addressed to the Prime Minister, that the success exceeded all expectations. And it was, if I may say so, in all respects a wonderful achievement. Whether we have regard to the immense distances traversed, to the millions of people with whom His Majesty was brought face to face, to the immense strain, physical and mental, which this great Royal progress involved, or last but not least to the impression—I believe a lasting impression—produced upon the people of India by their Majesties' visit, we must consider that that progress through India was an achievement probably unequalled in the history of the Royal House. Another feeling occurs to our minds now that their Majesties are once more with us—a feeling of relief. These long voyages, made under changing skies and varying climates, bring with them risks from which no traveller can escape. But royal travellers run other risks, about which we do not like to say much, but which are real risks, and particularly real when the countries visited are Eastern—countries which we know are the home of fanaticism. Those risks were faced by their Majesties with an intrepidity which commands all our admiration, and that feeling, I venture to think, intensifies the depth of the welcome with which we received them back to these shores. We must all regret that a gloom was thrown over their homecoming by the death of a member of this House very closely connected with their Majesties, and one who had earned the affection and respect of all who were privileged to know him.
Before I leave the visit of their Majesties to India may I be allowed to say that I noticed with satisfaction that it was not suggested to us by the noble mover that the success of the Royal visit was to be attributed mainly or even in part to the historic announcement made by His Majesty on the occasion of his visit to 18 Delhi. Any such assertion would, I conceive, imply a much too modest estimate of the effect produced upon the people of India by the demeanour and characteristics of their Majesties themselves. There can be no doubt as to the effect produced by the personal influence of His Majesty or again as to the reverence, spontaneous and inborn, which was paid to him as the incarnation of a rule which, in the minds of the people of India, stands for justice, the protection of the weak against the strong, good administration, and, above all, irresistible strength. But as to the policy announced at Delhi there is room for doubt, and we shall have something to say about it upon a future occasion. It is mentioned in His Majesty's gracious Speech that a Bill will be introduced dealing with this subject; but there are questions connected with it which do not really arise out of the kind of Bill which I understand His Majesty's Government are likely to introduce. The Bill is apparently intended rather to deal with what one may call the technical aspects of the case—the arrangements which will be made for the readjustment of the different Provincial Administrations; whereas the points to which we, I think, are likely to call attention are points of a different kind. I refer, for example, to the wisdom of removing the capital from Calcutta, and to the wisdom of choosing Delhi as the place to which that capital is to be removed. We shall also have something to say about the question of expense. I own frankly that I mistrust the estimates which have been made of the expense involved as much as I have mistrusted other estimates put forward by His Majesty's Ministers. Then I think we shall have a word to say as to the extraordinary secrecy observed With regard to these changes—a secrecy which, remember, carried with it inevitably the result that it was impossible for the Government either here or in India to consult fully all those who in ordinary circumstances would have been consulted in regard to the expediency of these great changes. And finally, my Lords, it will be our duty to say something as to the manner in which His Majesty's Government have connected this new policy with the personal intervention of His Majesty. As to the Bill, all I will now say is that I cannot help thinking that this House will be placed in a somewhat unusual and somewhat embarrassing position if we are told in one and the same breath that the sanction of 19 Parliament is necessary in order to give effect to this policy, and also that what we are asked to consider is not a proposal, but a complete and coherent policy which has been accepted as a whole by His Majesty's Government, and to which His Majesty's word has been irrevocably pledged from his Throne in Delhi.
I will pass for a moment to the brief sentence in which His Majesty deals with the question of his relations with foreign Powers. We are all glad to see the old formula reappear, and to know that His Majesty's relations with foreign Powers are of a friendly character. I have no doubt this statement is literally correct, and yet is it not true that it is impossible for any one to look at the general situation of international politics without a feeling of very considerable uneasiness? It is no exaggeration to say that there are vast areas in which there is no approach at the present time to anything like stable equilibrium. Great changes are in progress, and great problems are presenting themselves—problems the solution of which depends upon the temper in which they are approached; and that temper does not, I am afraid, in all cases appear to be exactly what one would desire. Both on the East and the West of our Indian Empire the old order of things is passing away. In China a Dynasty which I believe is the oldest in the world has disappeared, and a new form of government is to be given to a great Empire numbering a population equal to that of the whole of Europe and considerably exceeding the whole of Europe in extent; an Empire which includes races frugal, brave, industrious, and capable under good leadership of taking a great part either in the political or commercial or even the military affairs of the world. These changes cannot fail to affect the interests of this country. We can be no indifferent spectators, but for the moment all we can do is to trust to the neutrality and watchfulness of His Majesty's Government.
On the other side of the Indian Empire another old Monarchy is disappearing. It seems not very long ago that his late Majesty entertained the Shah of Persia in this city. The present Shah is an exile and chaos and disorder reign in his place. The condition of Persia is a matter of very special interest to this country, for geographical reasons, on account of the 20 proximity of Persia to India and our interests in the Persian Gulf; and also on account of the special responsibilities which we have lately assumed in regard to Persia. In 1907 Great Britain and Russia undertook the task of maintaining the integrity and independence of Persia. The independence of Persia is, I am afraid, very shadowy at this moment, and the difficulty of maintaining its integrity is rapidly increasing. We shall be grateful for any information which the noble Marquess is able to give us in regard to Persian affairs, particularly in regard to the intentions of His Majesty's Government, acting in co-operation with the Government of Russia, to take measures for re-establishing order and tranquillity in Persia. We should like more especially to know something in regard to the condition of Southern Persia. There are disquieting accounts of Indian troops sent to Shiraz for the protection of the British Consul there, and held in a position somewhat resembling that of prisoners in that place. We should like also to know, if there is anything to be told us, what is happening with regard to the important railway project which has been much discussed in the newspapers lately—a railway which, we understand, is in contemplation, and which would run from some point on the Russian frontier to a point on the Persian Gulf or the shores of the Indian Ocean.
In the Balkan Peninsula things do not look very hopeful at this moment. The Albanians do not appear to be inclined to settle down under the new Turkish regime, whilst from Macedonia there come accounts of deplorable outrages committed sometimes by one side and sometimes by the other. We ask ourselves uneasily what is likely to happen at that critical moment when the snows melt and when disorders are apt to arise in that part of the world.
In Tripoli, Italy and Turkey are at war, and we are glad to hear that His Majesty's Government are watching for an opportunity of mediation. All I will venture to say on that point is that I believe there is nothing so dangerous or so unlikely to produce a good result as a premature offer of mediation in a case of the kind. Then, in Morocco, France and Spain appear to be involved, each in their own region, in operations which promise to be somewhat prolonged. It is a singular thin, but Morocco appears to be fulfilling a rather 21 remarkable prophecy, to which a friend of mine called my attention, made in 1891 by the late Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury then said—Some day or other Morocco will be as great a trouble to Europe, and trill carry with it as great a menace to the peace of Europe, as the other Mohamedan communities further to the East used to carry twenty or thirty years ago.Lord Salisbury's words have come remarkably true. We may congratulate ourselves that there is no menace to the peace of Europe at this moment, and yet it appears to be almost a commonplace, not only in this country but on the Continent, to say that there was a moment not many months ago when this country was on the eve of a serious quarrel—a serious quarrel with a Power with which every right-thinking Englishman desires not only to live at peace, but to co-operate in the discharge of the great obligations which belong to two great progressive and civilising Powers. It is lamentable that these misunderstandings and apprehensions should exist, and it is the duty of all right-thinking people to endeavour to dispel them. In any effort to do this His Majesty's Government will, I am convinced, have the support of those who oppose them in regard to other questions. But I certainly will not take upon myself to tender advice to His Majesty's Government on this point, for the reason that I think they already get perhaps a little too much of it, and it is advice which appears to me to be very often based upon a misapprehension as to the facts.
I will, with the permission of the House, give an illustration of my meaning. I see that His Majesty's Government are continually adjured to arrive at a general understanding with Germany as to all outstanding questions very much in the same way as the late Government came to an understanding with France in 1904. I noticed the other day a remarkable speech delivered by the right rev. Prelate who presides over the diocese of Winchester. It was a speech in which I entirely concurred. He dwelt upon the horror with which nine Englishmen out of ten would look on any serious difference between this country and Germany, and he said that the heart and head of the British people revolted from such an idea. Then he went on to draw his conclusion, which was this. He said it was the duty of the country to constrain the diplomats and to insist upon what he called a genuine 22 entente with Germany. May I be allowed to appear as a witness to character on behalf of the diplomats? It is quite true that in 1904 the late Government came to an understanding with France about a number of outstanding questions, questions which, I think, might he described as of a sub-acute, if not of an acute character. They had reference, for example, to the relations of the two countries in Siam, in the New Hebrides, in Newfoundland, and in Egypt. In that case there were ample materials for what might be called an all-round understanding. But there was no such array of acute and outstanding questions between this country and Germany, and for this excellent reason, that for the previous twenty years one British Government after another had been settling these questions as they arose, and settling them to the satisfaction of both countries. I will not trouble the House with an enumeration on of the different Agreements arrived at. There must have been, I should think, from fifteen to twenty altogether, relating to all parts of the world, and affecting, amongst other things, our respective interests in the Western Pacific, Samoa, New Guinea, Heligoland, East Africa, West Africa, South-West Africa, and, finally, our spheres of interest in China. The result was that when we went to Germany, as we went to all the Powers, for an Agreement as to Egypt, upon the same lines as our Agreement with France, the British and German Governments came to the conclusion that it was better to restrict the negotiations to questions connected with Egypt only. That was done. There was, I think, a little Treaty of Arbitration which was made about the same time, but that really was all that there was an opportunity of doing at the moment. I do not suggest that nothing more remains to be done in that direction now; but what I do suggest is that, in the past, so far as I am aware, the diplomatists have always been ready to settle these questions with Germany in the most friendly manner, and so, I have no doubt, is the Government which is now in power.
And may I be permitted to say, seeing the Secretary of State for War in his place, that if his genial presence at Berlin on a recent occasion has at all contributed to so desirable a result, if he has come back with anything in the nature of an olive branch in his button-hole, we shall congratulate him on this side as warmly as he 23 will be congratulated by his friends on the other side of the House. Such a solution would have this further advantage, that it may enable the noble Viscount with a lighter heart to abstract from his Expeditionary Force whatever number of men may be necessary in order to ensure the safety of his own colleagues when they make excursions wholly unconnected with olive branches. I will only say this much more in regard to foreign affairs. I am glad to see that Papers have been promised to us, because during the last year or so we have been very meagrely supplied with information as to a number of these important international questions.
I now pass to the programme of legislation which we are asked to consider. For that programme I can only find one appropriate epithet, and that is the word preposterous. And yet, immense as it is, there are remarkable omissions. I do not know whether those omissions are covered by a very remarkable clause at the end of the Speech to the effect that Parliament is to be invited to consider proposals for dealing by legislation with "certain social and industrial reforms" That is a splendidly elastic formula. I should be inclined to say that the word "certain" was inappropriate, and that an element of uncertainty entered very largely into the calculation. I do not know whether that little sentence is intended merely to refer to minor and comparatively insignificant Bills of the kind which are often described as Departmental Bills or whether, as some of us suspect, it is intended to cover a great deal more. I own myself that I lean towards the latter hypothesis. I will tell the noble Marquess frankly that I interpret those words as a kind of saving clause under cover of which His Majesty's Government will hold themselves free to do what they have done on other occasions, and that is to take up, in the middle of the session, under the influence of Party exigencies, proposals which are not their own proposals, but which are forced upon them by the more exacting section of their supporters.
There is one omission which I notice—perhaps a minor omission, but I should like to refer to it. I see no reference to any legislation for improving the position of those small holders who at present rent their farms from the local authorities. The noble Marquess must be very well aware that a great many of these people are by 24 no means grateful for the privilege of renting land at a rental considerably in excess of the ordinary prevailing agricultural rents, and thereby buying the freehold of their farms by instalments, not for themselves, but for the local authority. That point has been a good deal discussed, and I certainly understood that some members of His Majesty's Government had distinctly stated that legislation was contemplated for the purpose of meeting what is an undoubted grievance. Then I should like to know why nothing is put down in consequence of the recommendations contained in the Report of Lord Haversham's Committee, which many of us have read with great interest, and which strongly presses the necessity of doing something to protect sitting tenants whose farms, for reasons with which we are all familiar and which are clearly indicated in the Report of the Committee, are being put on the market in constantly increasing numbers. I say nothing as to the omission of such questions as Poor Law reform or the relations of local and Imperial taxation. Of course these matters have to be put aside while His Majesty's Government are playing tricks with the Constitution, or attacking the Church, or doubling the electorate. But there is one very important omission which I cannot pass by without a word of notice— reform of the House of Lords. Have the Government quite forgotten the words of the Preamble of their own Parliament Bill? Have they quite forgotten the Prime Minister's pledge that this great question should be taken up during the lifetime of the present Government? Have they quite forgotten his admission that the obligation to do this was an obligation of honour?
Now a word as to the measures which are included in the gracious Speech. I do not believe that any British Ministry ever embarked upon such a task as His Majesty's Government have set to themselves for this session. May we be allowed to say that we do not regard these vast commitments as a sign of strength and vigour in His Majesty's Ministry. TQ us they seem, on the contrary, to be indications of helplessness and subserviency. So much so that I do not think it too much to say that the principal measures in the programme are legibly labelled with the names of the particular political factions which are to be placated by their introduction. There is the Bill dealing with the Welsh Church.
25 The noble mover made a Second Reading speech on that question. The thought did cross my mind that he would not have made a Second Reading speech in moving the Address if he had believed that the Bill had any chance of coming up to your Lordships' House. The Bill is described as one to deal with the establishment of the Church in Wales, and to make provision for its temporalities. Was there ever a more grotesque euphemism for a process which might be described in much more simple language as taking away 18s, 6d. in the pound from your victims and leaving them 1s, 6d.? That Bill is notoriously introduced in the hope of obtaining a large body of Nonconformist support for His Majesty's Ministers. I for one am not at all convinced that that support will be forthcoming. I believe that the weakness of the case, in spite of the able advocacy of the noble Lord, is becoming more and more evident to the people of this country, including the Nonconformists. There has been lately a very interesting extra-Parliamentary inquest upon this question. Two right rev. Prelates, whom I may be allowed to congratulate upon their indefatigable exertions, have been dealing freely with the question, and I think they and those who have been acting with them have succeeded in throwing the greatest possible doubt on the arguments and particularly on the statistics which are advanced in favour of this attack upon a part of the Church of England. The noble Lord made what seemed to me a very important admission. I think I heard Min say that he could not deny that the Church in Wales had gained ground in recent years. That is part of the ease. We believe that the Church in Wales is a progressing Church; we believe that. its income is not at all in excess of its requirements; we believe that the funds which you are going to take from it belong to it; and we believe that by depriving the Church of these funds you will denude of religious ministrations a great many remote districts where the ministrations of the clergy of the Church of England are the only ministrations which are available for the people. It is no consolation to be told that these abstracted funds are going to be used, as the noble Lord told us, for the general benefit of Wales. I presume that what that means is that what is taken away from these unfortunate dwellers in remote places is to be spent on such institutions as public libraries or public washhouses 26 in Tonypandy or places with unutterable names in various parts of the Principality.
I pass to the amendment of the law relating to the franchise. The noble mover dwelt upon the anomalies of the present franchise. It is quite possible, no doubt, that there are anomalies in the present franchise. But the question we want to have answered is whether His Majesty's Government are going to make an honest search for anomalies and to remedy those anomalies, whether the remedy suits their political book or not. We believe, on the contrary, that while some so-called anomalies will be touched, such anomalies as the over-representation of Ireland or the preposterous disproportion between the amount of representation accorded to different constituencies are likely to be left as they are. But not only are we to have this enormous increase to the electorate, but apparently upon the Government measure there may be drafted an excrescence which on the top of that increase will acid to the electorate something like eight millions of women. And that in spite of the often quoted statement of the Prime Minister that he regarded such a measure as a political mistake of a very disastrous kind, in spite of his admission— made on the occasion of a deputation headed by my noble friend behind me— that he doubted whether such a change would have the sanction of general and predominant opinion in the country. In spite of all that, he is apparently ready, at the bidding of a majority of the House of Commons, to adopt this colossal alteration in the law as his own, and to force it upon the country without further reference to the constituencies themselves. I venture to think that political levity could not go very much further.
One word as to Ireland. The noble mover began by referring us to what he called the sad record of past misgovernment in Ireland. I do not care to go into the question of the past misgovernment of Ireland, this evening. I dare say there have been mistakes, and mistakes on both sides; but what I do protest against is our being asked, on the strength of errors committed ninny years before our time, to take a step which we at any rate are convinced would be a disastrous one. I remember Lord Dufferin had a happy 27 phrase with reference that kind. He said—Do not let us antedate our responsibilities inreland.Then the noble Lord suggested there was a growing inclination on this side to deal in a more conciliatory spirit with the question of Home Rule, and he told the House that he believed that last year there existed within the ranks of the Conservative Party some inclination to treat home Rule as an open question. His suggestion was at any rate to that effect. I really do not know what the noble Lord referred to, but I can tell him—and I suppose I have a right, to say something on the subject—that I am wholly unaware that there has been any weakening in any section of the Conservative Party, or the Unionist Party, in regard to this subject. The other suggestion made by the noble mover was in the nature of a personal appeal to myself. He asked me whether I would not join him and others in an effort, as he said, to end the bitter controversies which raged round this question. The reason why we regard with unconquerable aversion these proposals to give Home Rule to Ireland is that we believe that their adoption, far from ending these bitter controversies, would prolong them indefinitely, and render them even more bitter than they are at present.
Let me say with regard to this promised measure of Home Rule for Ireland that we look forward with genuine relief to seeing the measure itself. The sooner we get the Bill the better. We desire to emerge from the region of platitudes and plausibilities and grandiloquent assurances and false analogies to which we have been obliged to listen for many months past, and we desire to see all these translated into the clear cut language of a Bill to be laid upon the Table of this House. When that time comes we shall be able to judge of the merits of this wondrous scheme which is to lay the keel of a system applicable, not only to Ireland, but to Scotland and Wales, and, I suppose, also to England, though England is very often left out of account in these calculations, and which is also to be applicable mutatis mutandis to our great Dominions over the seas. We want to see this Bill which is to content the people of Ireland —not always very moderate in their demands—without imposing intolerable burdens on the taxpayers of this country.
28 We want to see this Bill which is to give independence to an Irish Parliament without detracting, as we were told by the noble mover, one jot or one title from the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. We want to see this Bill which is to put executive power into the hands of men who throughout their careers have defied the law when it did not suit them to obey it without endangering the well-being of the loyal minority in Ireland. Finally we want to see this Bill which is to protect everything and everybody by a rampart of multitudinous safeguards without creating any friction between those who are defending and those who are assailing the fortress.
There is one other question with regard to Home Rule which I should like to ask. When we are told that His Majesty's Government are proposing this great revolution not because they want to purchase eighty Irish votes but because they desire to relieve the congestion from which Parliament is suffering, may we be allowed to ask this question 1 Would any Home Rule Bill that you could conceive have afforded any relief to the Parliament at Westminster in the present session? Look at the Bills which you are going to lay before Parliament. A Bill for the Disestablishment and Disendowment of part of the Church; a Bill affecting the conditions of the Union; a Bill for largely increasing, perhaps doubling, the electorate. Are any of these Bills which could have been taken off your hands by a Parliament in Dublin? Of course not I read a few days ago a speech delivered by a colleague of the noble Marquess, the Solicitor-General, who said that all that he and his friends wanted for Ireland was a Bill which would enable the Irish Parliament to deal with the parish pump. I wonder if the noble Lord will contend for one moment that the Church, the franchise, or the Union are to be classed in the same category with the parish pump.
I will ask another question, not referring to Home Rule, but to the whole catalogue— What hope can His Majesty's Government have of carrying the whole of these Bills during the present session of Parliament? If they have no hope, if these Bills are merely what is commonly called "window-dressing," then I say they are committing a fraud on the 29 people of this country by announcing them. If they intend to push them through, by what methods do they intend to accomplish that result? I have seen it said, and I believe truly said, that in an ordinary session only sixty days are available in the House of Commons for Government legislation. I believe that last year the closure was resorted to ninety times. How many closures will you have this year if you are going to push the whole of this programme through? And do not let it be forgotten that this year the session begins considerably later than usual.
Another question. Where do the House of Lords come in in your programme? We are constantly told that even under the Parliament Act the House of Lords have very extensive opportunities for consultation, revision, and delay if necessary. How are those opportunities going to be afforded to us in regard to all these great Bills-and let me remind the noble Marquess that we are entitled under the Parliament Act to receive them a clear month before the end of the session? If His Majesty's Ministers mean business with regard to these Bills we must have them at least a month before the end of the session. I hope His Majesty's Government will not be deluded by the precedent of the Insurance Act of last session, which was allowed to go through in spite of the lateness of the date at which it reached this House because we were aware that owing to its financial character it would not be possible for us to deal with it in Committee. But I shall be surprised if your Lordships are equally complacent with regard to the Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne.
Again, what room are you leaving in this programme of yours for the discussion of finance? The Budget of 1911 only came up to us in the month of December. Are these days when we can afford to dispense with the discussion of the finances of the country? I believe that one of the most alarming symptoms of the age in which we live is the apparent indifference of a large part of the people of this country to the reckless prodigality of the Government of the day. I do not care how good the objects are. Money may be spent on the most laudable objects, but that does not in the least relieve Parliament from the obligation to discuss the financial proposals 30 of the Government, nor does it relieve the Government of the day from the obligation to give Parliament the fullest opportunity of discussing them. The treatment of finance by His Majesty's Government is, I honestly believe undermining the credit of this country. We look back regretfully to the time when this country could borrow money much more cheaply than any of the other Great Powers. It is true that some of them, not all of them, have to pay more for money when they borrow it than they used to do. But in no country has the national credit gone down hill at the pace and to the extent to which it has gone down hill in this country. And there is only one explanation forthcoming from business men, and that is that by your prodigal expenditure, by the manner in which you have rushed finance through Parliament, and by your attacks upon Capital, you have shaken, deeply shaken, that foundation of credit and financial stability which in former clays has tided this country through great crises in its national history. I noticed the other day that the First Lord of the Admiralty in a speech at Glasgow told his hearers that he for one was prepared to face the financial situation with composure. He said that His Majesty's Government did not intend to borrow, but that they could with the utmost case, if they wanted money, borrow £100,000,000. I wonder whether the First Lord of the Admiralty asked his experts what the effect of putting a £100,000,000 loan on the market at the present moment would be likely to be on the price of Consols. I am afraid there can be no doubt that the only result would be another downward step in the downward progress of the credit of this country.
My Lords, I will make one final observation on the programme of the Government. It is this. It seems to me to be incredible that a Government which is in a minority in the House of Commons—if you compare the number of its supporters with the number of any other one political Party—it seems to me incredible that a Government which is in a minority in the House of Commons, which depends for its existence upon a coalition between different Parliamentary groups, should arrogate to itself the claim of tampering with the union of these islands, of disestablishing a part of the English Church, of doubling, if necessary, the strength of the electorate, and that it should claim to do this without an appeal 31 to the constituencies. It seems to me equally incredible that such an attempt should be made while one of the Houses of Parliament, by the admission of His Majesty's Ministers themselves, is improperly constituted; and while the other House of Parliament so inappropriately represents the views of the people of this country that they are ready to add anything between one and eight million of voters to the number of the electors. I cannot conceive a more cynical disregard of political principles than that you should embark on such a course under such conditions. That it is fraught with disaster I feel no doubt. We have vet to see whether that disaster will befall the country, or whether it will overtake the authors of these crazy enterprises.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, in paying the usual compliments which the Leader of the Opposition offers on such occasions to the mover and seconder of the Address, the noble Marquess drew attention to the fact that my two friends differ in some respects from those who in former years have discharged the same duty. He pointed out that it has often been the custom on these occasions for young Peers who sit on the side of the Government of the day to try their oratorical wings for the first time as mover and seconder of the Address, and, as we know, some of the most distinguished members of your Lordships' House have won their first cheers in one or other of those capacities. It is quite true that on this occasion we are more nearly reminded of the baptism of such as are of riper years and are able to answer for themselves. The noble Marquess drew some inference from that fact, but the fact that we have called upon some more experienced members of our Party on this occasion may be partly accounted for by the generally admitted circumstance that the quite young members of this House do not usually sit on the Liberal benches. Young Peers who come to this House generally come as members of the Conservative Party. But I am sure we shall all agree that both my noble friends discharged their task with great ability. Both of them have sat in another place. My noble friend the mover of the Address, as the noble Marquess pointed out, holds a position with regard to some matters, 32 particularly with regard to the question of education, both in this House and in the country which is second to no other; and my noble friend who seconded the Address is also a conspicuous figure. As employer Lord Furness has more than once played a unique part in matters affecting the relations of Capital and Labour. It is quite true—and I led to say this by an observation which fell from the noble Marquess—that, although we look on both of my noble friends as staunch supporters of the Government, certainly we do not expect from either anything like servile acquiescence in everything we may suggest merely because it comes from us. They possess to a considerable extent that independence which is always claimed and sometimes exercised by members of your Lordships' House.
The noble Marquess first mentioned the paragraph in the Speech which deals with their Majesties' visit to India. It is quite true that doubts were expressed by some well qualified to speak as to the wisdom or advisability of that visit. I personally was never in any way affected by those doubts, and from the very first was one of those who favoured it on every ground. It is undoubtedly the case that some of those whose first-hand experience of India was infinitely greater than mine had considerable doubts as to the wisdom of encouraging their Majesties to pay this visit, partly upon the particular ground of the almost inevitable risks involved in a visit of Sovereigns to places where great crowds are collected, and partly upon general grounds with which I confess I could never bring myself to agree. But whatever may have been the different views held at that time I think there is only one view possible now. Certainly there is only one view that can be held by anybody who was privileged to be there and saw the continuous and unalloyed triumph which attended their Majesties from the moment of their lauding at Bombay and their greeting by what I suppose is almost the most gorgeously picturesque crowd that you could see collected anywhere, through the splendid series of ceremonies at Delhi, through the magnificent heartiness of the civic welcome at Calcutta, back again to the affecting farewell which His Majesty took of his Indian subjects at Bombay. All through those varied experiences the success and triumph of their Majesties' visit was never in doubt for a moment. The events of 33 the visit have been described by the most accomplished pens and I need not dwell noon them. We must all recognise what thanks are due to the Viceroy for the personal part he took in the preparations for their Majesties' welcome, to the Durbar Committee most ably presided over by Sir John Hewett, and also to the citizens of Calcutta and Bombay for the endless pains which they took to devise means of welcoming their Majesties.
But if I may be allowed, by the permission of the House, for once to break the rule which we jealously observe, and desire to observe in this House, of not bringing the personality of the Sovereign into our debates, I cannot refrain from saying how much the success of the whole visit is clue to the individual account of His Majesty and of the Queen. The entire forgetfulness which their Majesties displayed of everything except the performance of the Stately duties, many of them involving long hours and much physical fatigue, which they had set themselves to undertake; their complete accessibility to all sorts of people in India; and most of all, perhaps, the air of fearless and unaffected enjoyment with which they entered into the popular side of the pageants in which they were the chief figures, contributed more than anything else to the marvellous success of their Majesties' visit. We all know what. divinity hedges a King, particularly in am Oriental country, where he is regarded as representing a special manifestation of the Divine essence and character. Their Majesties visit has in no way impaired that tremendous feeling of awe and reverence. To have achieved this and at the same time to have created about themselves an atmosphere of simple human friendliness and sympathy, means that to heir Majesties have rendered a service to the Empire and have performed a work which could only have been performed by the Sovereigns themselves and by none of their subjects, however distinguished they may be in other respects. I believe, my Lords, that the effect produced in India by their Majesties' visit will be no transient effect; but that the admiration and loyalty which they inspired will sink deep into the hearts of the Indian people. I should estimate that not less than some fifteen millions of persons must have been immediately aware of the presence of their Majesties, and that of these nearer ten millions than five millions must have seen 34 them face to face; and when we consider how in a country like India first-hand reports are carried from village to village and from district to district, we shall be able to appreciate to how many of His Majesty's Indian subjects the fact of his presence and personality has thus been brought home.
The noble Marquess mentioned the further paragraph of the Speech which deals with the administrative changes which were the subject of the announcement by His Majesty at Delhi. The noble Marquess will, I ant sure, forgive me if I am not drawn by his somewhat critical tone into a discussion on this subject at this moment or even into any mention of those changes. For it seems to me that it will be better to treat the matter as a whole on that day of discussion which I hope will be an early one, as I know that noble Lords opposite are desirous of discussing the whole question. We shall then he able to consider it in all its hearings, and therefore I shall not now say anything as to the reception which the announcement met in India, although that is a point which was specially mentioned by the noble Marquess. The Indian part of the Speech contains, as the noble Marquess reminded us, a melancholy note of the amari aliquid which sometimes attends great triumphs and which was not absent from the return of their Majesties to these shores. The late Duke of Fife never took, either as a member of the House of Commons or as a member of this House, that part in public affairs which his natural shrewdness and his acquired knowledge might, in the opinion of those who knew him, have entitled him to take. But we can say that he will be most deeply regretted in private life by those who had the privilege of knowing him, and also in that part of Scotland in which he filled a most conspicuous place.
Before passing away from this personal reference perhaps I may be allowed to make a very short reference to another loss which this House has sustained by the death of one of its most distinguished members—one of the few members of whom it can be said that his reputation was absolutely European. I mean, of course Lord Lister, who although he did not often attend our debates, was one of our number of whom we were all in our hearts most proud for the great services which he had 35 rendered to humanity during his long life, and which made him beyond all dispute one of the foremost men in England.
The earlier part of the Speech deals with foreign affairs, and, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, it is a somewhat stormy horizon in various parts of the world at which we are obliged to look. The first topic mentioned is that of the unhappy war which still continues between Italy and Turkey. The Speech informs us that we have agreed to associate ourselves, if occasion should offer, with other Powers in offering mediation. I desire to endorse most fully the caution which fell from the noble Marquess on this point. It is easy and attractive to speak of mediation. But where two proud nations are concerned, as in this instance, you must be quite certain before you are in a position to offer mediation that a solid basis for mediation exists; otherwise your well-meant attempt may do more harm than it could possibly do good. Subject to this caution it would, of course, be a welcome possibility to his Majesty's Government, as, I believe, it would to the other great Powers of Europe, if we could see our way to offering our good offices to either country concerned with a view to the termination of this deplorable dispute.
The noble Marquess mentioned the affairs of Persia, which have, unless I am mistaken, been the subject of more than one discussion in this House during the period that I have been unable to attend it; and, as the Speech says, the situation still continues to engage the serious attention of His Majesty's Government. Two points are, I think, worthy of special mention. In the first place, we have seen how much more deeply distracted the situation in Persia has become by the attempts of the ex-Shah of Persia to return and to obtain a footing in the country. The ex-Shah has had throughout, and was able to produce, a certain degree of following in Persia itself; but we are convinced that the best hope, if not the only hope, for the restoration of order in Persia is that the ex-Shah should leave the country. We could not recognise him in any form after the complete misgovernment and era of corruption which was associated with his former rule. Therefore it must be the desire of all friends of Persia that he should retire or he retired from the country as soon as possible.
36 The noble Marquess spoke, I think, with a somewhat needless degree of pessimism of the future of Persia. He spoke of it as a disappearing monarchy. I hope that is a needlessly gloomy view to take. The existing Government there is, we believe, as determined as any Government has been to maintain the independence of Persia. But its members now fully admit and are evidently prepared to act on the opinion that it is useless, and worse than useless, to ignore the fact of Russian influence in Northern Persia, and they desire to act as far as possible in concert with their neighbours. The second point on which I wish to say a word is the continuing need of obtaining funds for Persia by which an improvement can take place in the government. I am glad to say that we have been able to arrange for a comparatively small immediate advance to Persia for immediate purposes; and I hope that that may be the prelude to the raising of a larger loan, which will enable the Persian Government to start more fairly on the restoration of order.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Would the noble Marquess say whether the advance is a British advance or a joint advance?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
It is a joint advance of equal amount from Russia and ourselves. Then the noble Marquess particularly and naturally mentioned the southern area in which our interests are so prominent. We are bound to remember that all through these disturbed times we have received a number of representations from subjects of His Majesty whether British or Indian, who are interested in Persian trade, and some of our critics, I think, have not quite fully recognised that it is impossible for us altogether to ignore those representations. His Majesty's Government are strongly averse to direct interference in Persian affairs, and if any member of His Majesty's Government more than another has reason to be so averse it is the man who fills the office which I have the honour to hold. From the Indian point of view for more reasons than one anything like direct interference in Persia is thoroughly objectionable. In the first place, we have no desire—quite the contrary—to send Indian troops to Southern Persia, because that is not the purpose for which the Indian Army exists, and the actual difficulties which would confront 37 our forces there are, owing to the nature of the people and of the country, always likely to be severe. But, in the second place, we always have to bear in mind the peculiar position which Persia holds in the regard of the Mahomedan community of India. That alone makes us thoroughly averse from appearing to interfere unduly in the internal affairs of Persia. Although we have been accused of sending Indian troops to Southern Persia, we have desired to confine the sending of those troops I simply to guards for the various Consulates, and we have not permitted their being used for the ordinary purposes of escorting trade caravans. They have been simply Consular guards of the ordinary character, although somewhat stronger than in more peaceful times they would have been. What we particularly hope when the financial situation is more regular is that the Persian Government themselves may be helped to make the southern trade roads safe, which to anybody who knows the character of the great and in some cases almost semi-independent tribes who live or move along those roads is a task which requires not merely force but also the exercise of seine diplomacy.
The noble Marquess made some allusion to, or I think desired to obtain information about, the proposal for a trans-Persian railway to India. That I have always felt is a project which from many points of view must require very close examination and careful consideration on the part of anybody who acts for Great Britain, quite apart from the particular question of the special route which such a railway might most reasonably take if it were made. The whole question is one of very serious import indeed from the Indian point of view, and it is certainly not one about which we ought to give a hurried decision, although it is an undoubted fact that some of the great trade interests in India are exceedingly anxious to see such a railway made. The whole subject is still in the region of absolute inquiry. Neither we, nor any other party, are pledged to any particular undertaking or form of undertaking, and I can assure the noble Marquess that we shall continue to watch most carefully the further stages which the project may reach and shall jealously examine all the details connected with it.
The next paragraph in the gracious Speech deals with China. The changes in 38 China are so astonishing that they almost baffle any attempt at description, because it is as though the slow movement down a great valley of a glacier, taking centuries to accomplish its course, had changed at one moment into a rapid torrent. Our policy, and, 1 am glad to know, the policy of the Powers generally, is one of nonintervention. I think it has become a matter of general acceptance that a country must choose for itself what form of civilised Government it considers to be best suited to its own needs and conditions, and that it is not reasonable or wise for foreign countries to attempt direct interference with such a choice. But it is undoubtedly the case that that policy of non-intervention has been made very much easier both for us and for others by the happy absence, the almost complete absence, I think, of those attacks upon foreigners which on some former occasions in China have proved to be such a serious element in internal disturbances. As your Lordships will recognise, the exaction of reparation for attacks of that kind is apt to become almost indistinguishable from active intervention; and it is therefore satisfactory that both sides in this great national contest have abstained from attacks of that kind. Before leaving China I am unwilling to refrain from expressing one word in tribute to that very distinguished Ulsterman, Sir John Jordan, who, as the representative of His Majesty's Government in Peking through these difficult times, has shown both tact and ability of which it is impossible to speak too highly.
The noble Marquess alluded to a topic which does not appear in the Speech, but of the reference to which it is quite impossible for me to complain, because it is a matter which has been much in the public mind of late—I mean the relations existing between this country and Germany. Those relations have for some time past, as is familiar to everybody, not merely in this House but in the country, been a matter of anxiety, especially since the discussions which took place last summer respecting events in Morocco. The events of that time have been fully and clearly explained by my right hon. friend Sir Edward Grey and I need in no way dwell upon them. What has been so serious has not been anything between the two Governments, but the state of public opinion in the two countries. It is that which has caused the feeling of anxiety of which I spoke.
39 For instance, it is useless to blink the fact that it has been very largely believed in Germany that last summer, when those events were proceeding, we were making preparations of a special character for a. possible attack upon Germany. My Lords, there was not, and there never has been, any foundation for that belief. It is hardly necessary perhaps, speaking in this House, to make that statement. All that ever happened—it is a matter of departmental action which will be universally recognised as not merely desirable but necessary—was the continuance of those purely defensive, I will not say preparations, but measures, which we always take on all occasions and which were not in any way altered or specially wakened into activity on that particular occasion. I suppose it was some report of those everyday and ordinary preparations which was conveyed to Germany through the ordinary channels of information that created an impression there that we were making preparations of a special kind. Since then both Governments—I am sure it is as true of the German Government as it is of ours—have been concerned to check that thoroughly unnatural state of public feeling, both Governments knowing that such beliefs were not justified by facts and were not justified by the intentions of either.
In these circumstances I think your Lordships will agree that it was a natural thing that either on one side or the other—it is not important which—some steps should be taken for conversation which might make it generally clear that no misapprehensions existed, and we had some reason to infer that a visit of a British Minister to Germany would not be disagreeable to the German Government. My noble friend behind me (Viscount Haldane) often goes to Germany—I believe, as a matter of fact, he would in any case have been paying a visit there before very long—and it seemed to His Majesty's Government, particularly in view of my noble friend's familiarity with Germany and his intimacy with many Germans, that it would be an advantage that conversations should take place, altogether without prejudice, between him and those responsible for the German Government, which could be held with more openness and frankness—that is to say, frankness owing to their informal character—than would be possible if regular diplomatic 40 negotiations were entered into in the usual way. My noble friend, as we all know, went to Berlin and there had a number of conversations with distinguished members of the German Government, and I am able to say that he found them animated in quite as marked a degree as His Majesty's Government could be with a desire to dissipate any national misunderstanding which might exist.
In the first place, both the German Government and His Majesty's Government agree that real and solid good may be done without in any way impairing on either side those friendships or bonds of various kinds which exist between Germany and Great Britain on the one side and various other nations on the other. That is a matter of common agreement between the German Government and ourselves. The noble Marquess, in a very interesting historical survey, pointed out that the reason why no general attempt has been made to settle at one blow a series of burning questions in the same manner that a settlement was arrived at between France and ourselves is that in the case of Germany no such series of questions existed, because various questions in different parts of the world had been dealt with on many previous occasions as they arose. That is no doubt perfectly true, and, as I think has been before observed in this House, one of the peculiar difficulties attending the state of feeling which has existed between Germany and ourselves is that it appeared rather to represent an atmosphere on the one side or the other rather than a state of things due to the existence of particular questions for which a particular solution might be found. Still, it is possible that there may be some questions, not perhaps in most cases of a very large or crucial character, in various parts of the world as to which some adjustment might take place between Germany and ourselves. I am quite sure that the House will not expect me to offer any details of such matters at this moment, but so far as exchanges of views on such subjects are possible, whether informal or at a later stage formal, I think your Lordships will agree they will be all to the good. But what is, I think, even more important is the spirit of complete frankness which has been displayed on both sides, and also the frank recognition which has taken place, and which we certainly desire to maintain on our side, with regard to claims 41 to respective places in the world which Germany and ourselves fill and expect to be permitted to fill. Your Lordships will see that I have not been able to tell you anything very express or definite, but I am certainly able to say that the visit of my noble friend to Berlin has been productive of good, and I am able to express the hope that more good will come from it in the future in establishing relations of friendly frankness between the German Government, and ourselves.
I need not, I think, allude to the other matters relating to foreign affairs which occur in the Speech except to say one word about the Opium Conference at The Hague. That is remarkable owing to the rapidity, the somewhat unusual rapidity for a. Conference of that kind, with which a conclusion has been able to be reached. That rapidity is really due to the fact that two years ago another Conference was held at Shanghai between representatives of the Powers, at which the whole question was fully discussed. But the important point which has been reached is this, and I venture to think it is one of great importance from the point of view of the Indian Government. The House is aware that the Indian Government has agreed to abandon in the course of a period which will not be a very long one the export of opium to China, and it may be assumed that to other parts of the world also the export will be limited. It was naturally felt, both by Indian opinion and by the opinion of those here who were responsible for the Indian revenues, that it was a great deal to ask a country on humanitarian grounds to check the export of a drug of that kind if there remained an unrestricted import from other sources of a worse drug or worse forms of the same drug—that is to say, such products as morphia and cocaine—into the very countries from which opium is being barred. The unrestricted use of opium is undoubtedly a bad thing, but the unrestricted use of morphia and cocaine is very much worse, and I am glad that the Powers have agreed to take steps with regard to the export of these most deleterious products which will prevent the replacing of opium by infinitely worse and more easily smuggled and more easily taken forms of the same or other drugs.
I now come to the domestic part of the King's Speech, as to the form of which the 42 noble Marquess has dealt out criticism with no sparing hand. He considers the programme in the Speech to err both by excess and by defect. It errs by excess because, according to him, it contains various great measures which we have no chance of passing; and it also errs by defect because we do not mention a number of other measures in the kind of catalogue with which we have been familiar in Speeches from the Throne in former years. We are told that these great measures which form the bulk of the domestic part of the gracious Speech merely represent the concessions which timidity has to make to violence. I should prefer to say, and I say it with absolute conviction, that these measures of His Majesty's Government are announced in the gracious Speech because they are the measures which the people want. All the three measures are, in the opinion of a great many of His Majesty's subjects, entirely overdue. Whatever you may say about Home Rule, nobody can say that it is a new proposal. Whatever you may say about the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, that cannot be described as a measure which a spirit of opportunism has introduced merely to satisfy a particular section of our supporters. As regards the measure dealing with the franchise and registration, noble Lords opposite know very well that for years it has been a source of complaint from a great body of our supporters, in the first place that the system of registration is such as to disqualify through no fault of their own a great number of Voters merely because they are poor, and in the second place the existence of the plural vote has for a long time been an admitted grievance of all our supporters. I confess, therefore, that, so far as the general criticism of the noble Marquess is concerned, we need not consider that it cuts us very deep.
As to the particular measures, this is certainly not the moment and not the time of the evening at which it is necessary to discuss them. As regards Ireland, I will merely say a word on the one point which my noble friend who moved the Address mentioned as to the attitude which at various times the Unionist Party have taken towards this question of self-government for Ireland. My noble friend recalled what happened in 1885, and he also recalled what happened last year at the 43 time when the Constitutional Conference, as it was called, was still sitting. If you go back to 1885 it was undoubtedly the case that a great many who, when the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was introduced, became and afterwards remained Unionists of a most pronounced type, had been prepared to go a considerable length, either by some form of Provincial Councils or by other expedients, in offering self-government to Ireland, and I have no hesitation in saying that in 1886 Mr. Gladstone was misled—of course, it is open to any noble Lord to say he ought not to have been misled, but he was misled—into believing that there was an excellent chance of settling this question of Irish self-government by some form of compromise in which both Parties would be involved. With regard to what happened last year, I believe the newspapers, and I believe some speeches also, have lately been full of a number of quotations from the Unionist Press at that time, and also—though I speak with less confidence of this—from speeches by Unionists implying a totally different method of approach to this subject, an entirely different tone in discussing the possibility of some arrangement with the Irish, probably of a Federal character, which would meet their wishes and finally settle the question.
I am quite sure that my noble friend would not argue, and certainly I should not argue, that these manifestations at different periods meant that Unionists had become Home Rulers, still less that the Unionist Party had become a Home Rule Party. Neither do I pretend that these manifestations, as I call them, debar noble Lords opposite or their friends in the country from criticising any and every clause in our Bill when we produce it. But I do say that these facts, which, after all, cannot be disputed, make it ridiculous for noble Lords opposite or their friends to express a kind of holy horror at the bare notion of any form of Home Rule, and make it absurd for the Unionist Party as a whole to adopt the sort of tone towards Home Rule which we expect, and in a measure accept, from noble Lords like the noble Marquess who is not now in his place (Lord Londonderry) and those who in North-East Ireland hold the most violent views on this subject. I can assure the noble Marquess and his supporters that the Government certainly do not approach this question, 44 the difficulty of which I admit as does my noble friend who moved the Address, in anything like a light-hearted spirit. We entirely recognise the vast difficulties which surround it; but I think we are entitled to ask that the objections to Irish self-government should be clearly formulated and stated in detail.
Take, for instance, the case of Ulster. I quite agree that the objections in Ulster to a Home Rule measure, so far as they are not the product of mere bigotry or the merest Party feeling, ought to be most carefully considered and weighed by those who are responsible for the measure; but I think we are entitled to ask that those who make these objections should state categorically exactly what are the results of Home Rule of which they are so afraid, and not merely meet us with vague phrases like "Catholic intolerance" and "Catholic domination," but should say precisely what they are afraid will be done by the majority of their Irish fellow-subjects who are Roman Catholics supposing an Irish Parliament is formed. It is quite true, as the noble Marquess said, that one of the arguments that weighs most with us is that of the ever-increasing congestion of business in another place. The noble Marquess recognises that congestion as fully as we do, because he is never tired of taunting us with the measures which we are compelled in self-defence to take if we are to get our Bills through another place at all. But when the noble Marquess puts to me the rather strange conundrum which he did about the present session and the measures in the gracious Speech—Home Rule, the Welsh Church, the Franchise—and asks me how the passage of the Home Rule Bill would be facilitated by the existence of an Irish Parliament, I confess I am so completely puzzled by the form of the conundrum that I cannot pretend to answer the particular question as to how far the passing of our Bill to create an Irish Parliament would be assisted by the fact that an Irish Parliament existed already.
I will not dwell upon the Welsh Church, but will merely repeat that our measure is simply in response to the steady and persistent Constitutional request of many years. But I think there is this feature which it is fair to mention—namely, that this demand comes from perhaps the most religious part, if one is to make such com- 45 parisons, of the United Kingdom. I do not suppose there is a more religious people in the world than the Welsh people, and, therefore, when we are told of attacks on the Church and of combating of religious influences, as we are sometimes told, it is necessary, surely, to avoid the kind of confusion which may be created in some minds by comparing an enterprise of this kind for the Disestablishment of the Church with those purely secularist movements which have taken place in some other parts of the world, and which are founded upon opposition, not merely to clericalism, but to all kinds of revealed religion. It is undoubtedly true that a system of concurrent endowment, which seems to be suggested by some as a substitute for our measure, is one which has never been accepted in any part of the United Kingdom. In the abstract., in other parts of the world, no doubt much may be said for some system of the kind, but it must be recognised that the foundation of any system of concurrent endowment is utterly alien both to our traditions and beliefs. That being so, all that we can say is that it is not reasonable, in our opinion, to bind the State up with a Church which is not the Church of the majority of the people. After all, the principle of Disestablishment was accepted, and time has not, I think, diminished the value of that acceptance, in Ireland, and, if it was accepted in Ireland, it is open to say that it ought to be accepted in Wales though, of course, anybody is entitled to point out how the conditions in Wales may differ from those in Ireland. But there, again, it is not reasonable to treat the whole thing as a matter that ought not to be touched if you are willing to agree that the principle was reasonably accepted in circumstances which, though not exactly parallel, are, at any rate, similar.
The only other point which was raised by the noble Marquess to which I need allude is the penultimate clause in the King's Speech, which states that we are to be invited to consider further proposals for dealing by legislation "with certain social and industrial reforms." The noble Marquess seemed to be of opinion that some dark and sinister meaning lurked behind those very general words. I think I may venture to assure him that no such meaning should be read into them. The noble Marquess will not expect me, as we explicitly excluded from the Speech itself a catalogue of the minor Bills which we 46 hope to pass, to give him such a catalogue now. When one speaks of "minor Bills" the phrase is often a dangerous one to use, because the estimate of the importance of a Bill varies very much in the minds of different members of your Lordships' House; but I think I may safely say that there is no very large or far-reaching measure which is covered by those words.
That, I think, is all I need say in reply to the noble Marquess. I will, however, just express the hope that the exceedingly gloomy forecast which he uttered with regard to the future of the session in the matter of time both in another place and here may prove to be an exaggerated forecast. It is obvious that the programme which has been announced in the gracious Speech is a long and heavy one, but I am certainly not prepared to admit that it represents an impossible degree of work for Parliament to undertake within the compass of the session provided that discussion is confined within limits which impartial people would agree are reasonable. At the same time, I entirely agree with him that, it is due to this House, in consideration of the terms of the Parliament Act, that a full period of discussion should be given for each and every one of the measures for which His Majesty's Government are responsible.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.