HL Deb 05 April 1916 vol 21 cc604-22

VISCOUNT MILNER rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether there is any reason why the Union Jack should not be flown from all Government buildings in the United Kingdom on Empire Day as it is in the self-governing Dominions.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I do not think that the object of this Question requires many words of explanation. I believe it is one which will have the sympathy of all your Lordships. The celebration of May 24, the birthday of Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, as Empire Day had its origin in a happy inspiration of the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Lord Meath). For something like fourteen or fifteen years he has devoted a great amount of time and energy and not an inconsiderable amount of money out of his own purse to the promotion of this patriotic idea, and he has been rewarded by the great and growing enthusiasm which it has excited among all the British communities across the seas as well as in this country. Empire Day, in fact—and this is the importance of it, as it seems to me—has become to all the scattered communities of the British race the symbol of that unity of feeling which possesses them all with a common loyalty to one Sovereign and one Flag and to those ideals of freedom, justice, and tolerance for which the British Empire stands throughout the world.

This is a sentiment which we must honour all the more because it is not a mere emotion; it has found practical expression of the most impressive kind, within the last few years, in the hundreds of thousands of splendid fighting men who have come forward inspired by that sentiment to the aid of this country in the greatest struggle in all its long history. The popularity of the Day is a growing one. I need only mention two or three figures. In the year 1914—the last year in respect of which figures for the outside Empire are obtainable—Empire Day was observed in 36,778 schools in the outside Empire with an average attendance of 4,200,000; and in the United Kingdom it was kept last year in 25,666 schools with an average attendance of just over 5,000,000. That figure is good, but the comparison is not altogether favourable to the United Kingdom, where there exists in certain quarters what I can only describe as a sort of hostility to the Flag which one is obliged to regard as a sort of psychological curiosity. That hostility is based on an idea—I cannot imagine whence derived—that the Flag, the Union Jack, is a symbol of militarism. It is not militarism which the Flag symbolises but patriotism, a very different matter. Militarism may be good or bad, according to the meaning attached to that much-abused word; but there can be no doubt that patriotism, love of country, sense of duty, is an unmixed good.

From what I have said, it is evident that the celebration of Empire Day is of increasing popularity, especially—and this is important—in the self-governing Dominions, where it receives an amount of official encouragement and recognition which it has not yet achieved in this country. In most of them it is a statutory holiday. Personally, I should like to see it a statutory holiday everywhere throughout the Empire. But I am not making any such audacious proposal on this occasion with regard to the United Kingdom. I conceive that there may be objections to making it a statutory holiday here. I confine myself to a much more modest proposal. All that I am asking is that there should no longer he a complete official ignoring of the Day in this country, but that, at any rate, the Union Jack should be flown on Empire Day from all the principal public buildings, as it is on His Majesty's birthday. If that were done, I am confident that the local authorities, who already in many cases fly the Flag from their buildings, would gladly follow suit, and that the private display of bunting would be more general than it already is. Above all, I believe that this very slight degree of official recognition, which is all I ask for, would have the effect of converting those education committees—they are already a minority but they represent some very important parts of the country—which at present are not prepared to sanction any sort of observance of Empire Day in the schools under their control. Once they were converted, the observance of the Day would become as general, or very nearly as general, here as it is in the self-governing Dominions, and as, in my opinion, it ought to be everywhere. I would ask your Lordships to notice that I do not suggest that the Government should bring any pressure to bear upon the education committees. All that I ask is that the Government should themselves set the example of respect for the Day in the simplest imaginable manner, in which case I believe that all the rest would follow automatically.

I should like to go a little further and say that the absence of any official mark of respect for the Day in this country is calculated to have a bad effect—it does, indeed, as I know, have a bad effect—which cannot possibly be intended. It is inconceivable that the Government should really be indifferent to a sentiment which so deeply stirs the hearts of many millions of the people of this country and the Empire, for it has been estimated that, not fewer than 19,000,000 people took part in the Empire Day celebration in 1914. And stirs them to what? To patriotic devotion to the Commonwealth. What are the watchwords of this movement as they have been expressed by the noble Earl on many occasions? They are Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy, Self-sacrifice. The time has passed when it is possible to regard the cult of Empire as a brutal assertion of material force, as the worship of superior strength, or the oppression of weaker nations. What the united Empire is fighting for to-day is freedom and justice, a humane civilisation, and the rights of weaker nationalities; and of the hundreds of thousands of our fellow-subjects from across the seas who have come to help us in this fight many of them are surprised and pained (I know this, because it has often been said to me) by the appearance of indifference in this country—I know there is no real indifference, but it is a great pity to give that false impression—to a celebration which for them has so deep a meaning, and a want of respect for a Day which to them has become the emblem of the cause for which they are at this moment making such great sacrifices. If it is only out of regard for the feelings of our fellow-countrymen in the Dominions, for whose courage and devotion we all feel so deep an admiration, I think it is high time that the Government of this country should come into line with a sentiment strong even here and overwhelmingly strong among oversea Britons, and should now and henceforward give the stamp of their approval to the great patriotic movement initiated by the noble Earl.


My Lords, having taken an active interest in the promotion of the Empire movement your Lordships will probably expect me to say a few words upon this subject. Before I do so I want to thank the noble Viscount for the words which he has spoken and for coming to the support of the Empire movement with all his eloquence and with all the influence which he so justly possesses. It is a platitude to say that we are passing through times which the Empire, indeed the world, never knew before. All sorts of things are happening which are entirely new to the world, and amongst them the extraordinary manner in which our self-governing Colonies—indeed, the whole of the Empire—have risen as one man to defend themselves against the oppressive power of the Central Governments of Europe. I am sure that I am expressing the feeling of many when I say that I, for one, feel daily that I want some means of thanking my fellow-subjects across the seas—and amongst them I include the millions who are not of our race—for the spirit which they have evinced and for the sacrifices which they have made in the Imperial cause. Can we find a better opportunity for universal recognition of our gratitude to these men than the observance of one day in the year sanctioned and encouraged by the Government of the Home State?

I am desirous of making clear what sometimes is a little confused outside this House—namely, what the Empire movement really is. Therefore you will pardon me if I enter into a few details in regard to the meaning of this movement. The noble Viscount who has just sat down has informed you that the movement was started in 1902, and that its first celebration was in 1905. In that year—1905—I tried to lay down a policy for the movement, and I am thankful to say that I have not had to vary one iota from that policy since it began. In that year, in a public address which I gave, I stated— It is intended that the Empire celebration shall be the outward sign of an inner awakening of the peoples who constitute the British Empire to the serious duties which lie at their door. In 1905, therefore, I tried to lay down distinctly that this Empire movement was not one simply for the glorification of the Union Jack, but was one which had a very much higher meaning. Its watchwords then laid down, as the noble Viscount has told you, have never been varied. They were Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy, Self-sacrifice. I had hoped that no one could misunderstand the meanings of those words. But alas! some did, principally through ignorance. Its motto was One King, one Flag, one Fleet, one Empire. All who join are requested to remember that they are expected to love and fear God, to honour the King, to obey the laws, to prepare to advance the higher interests of the Empire in peace and war, to cherish patriotism, to regard the rights of other nations—I would ask your Lordships to notice this; this is not jingoism—to learn citizenship, to follow duty, to consider duties before rights—and I would ask even at this day, Do not some of us want that impressed upon our minds?—to acquire knowledge, to think broadly, to practise discipline, to subdue self, to work for others, and to consider the poor and the suffering. Some have said to me, "Why consider the poor and the suffering? What has that to do with patriotism?" My reply has always been, It is the very foundation of patriotism. If you find lack of patriotism, it is because social conditions are wrong. The man does not see that he has anything to fight for. My whole object has been—I think your Lordships will recognise it—through my life, in my humble way, to try and get these conditions altered, and to show the man that there is a reason why he should fight and die for his country if need be. Thank God ! things have altered very greatly since I was a boy; and I rejoice to think that there is far more reason now for the poorest man to defend his home than there was in those days. Jingoism, therefore, and militarism in its bad sense, were far from my mind and from the minds of those who assisted me and do assist me now. And perhaps in proof of the fact that there is no Party mixed up with this movement, I may say that in our printed documents everywhere you will see the words Non-Party, Non-Sectarian, Non-Aggressive, Non-Racial.

Amongst other ways of celebrating the Day religious services are held in large numbers of churches and chapels, and I dare say it may astonish your Lordships to know that by far the largest number of places of worship celebrating the Day are to be found under the head of Nonconformists; and Nonconformists are not, as a general rule, supposed to be very favourable to militarism or to jingoism, as it is called, in any sense. The movement asserts that its spirit is of the most vital national importance; and that spirit I tried to explain in 1905 in these words— It might be partially translated as subordination of selfish or class interests to those of the State and of the community, and the inculcation on the minds of all British subjects of the honourable obligation which rests upon them of preparing themselves, each in his or her own sphere, for the due fulfilment of the duties and responsibilities attaching to the high position of being subjects of the mightiest Empire the world has aver known. The movement impresses upon its followers that although the observance of Empire Day on May 24 or on some day not far removed from that date—and I should like your Lordships to notice that we have never made a fetish of the 24th of May; as a matter of fact, the Empire movement has been celebrated on a great many days—is most valuable, it must always be remembered that it is not of such paramount importance as the encouraging of the systematic teaching in the schools throughout the year of its spirit and objects and of the meaning of its watchwords. It naturally follows that it works, therefore, principally through the home and the school, and whatever success has attended this movement is largely due to parents, to education authorities, and to masters and mistresses in schools.

The noble Viscount has told your Lordships of the large number of education authorities that have sanctioned the movement, and thanks are especially due to London. The London education authority have issued year after year a most admirable synopsis of what they desire the children to know; and this has been done not only in London but in many other large towns, and especially across the seas. I wish I could show your Lordships some of the literature which is issued by the Governments of the different self-governing Colonies, illustrated with pictures of the eminent men of the Empire, with little short histories of how they have distinguished themselves, and which carry the children's thoughts to Imperial matters in the most marvellous manner. I wish the same thing could be done at home. Recently there was a deputation to the Board of Education—I was a member of it—to try to induce them to get patriotism, I will not say taught, because you cannot teach patriotism, but at all events to show the children why they should be patriots. I welcome what has been done in Wales. There the Department has taken the matter up in a most excellent manner, and nothing could be better than the papers which are being issued to the teachers in regard not only to local patriotism but to wider and Imperial patriotism.

So rapid has been the growth of this movement that, as the noble Viscount told you, in 1914 over 19,500,000 persons are known to have observed the Day. Of course, a great many more have done so. As a matter of fact, any figures that I give may very well he doubled, because we only give the figures that we know. When I went to India just before the war I found to my astonishment that Empire Day had been observed in many parts of India, of which celebrations I was perfectly ignorant. I knew that branches consisting entirely of natives were carrying out the principles of Empire Day in some of the large centres, and I knew also that in Mahomedan mosques and in Hindu and Sikh temples, including the very central and most holy of holies of the Sikh temples, prayers were offered up and sermons preached which were sent to me from time to time by the preachers. In India Empire Day is kept on Durbar Day for climatic reasons which are very easy for your Lordships to understand.

I want to show His Majesty's Government—I dare say they know it—the extraordinary interest that has been taken in this movement by Governments all over the Empire and by those who are governing. Over forty Colonial Governors, Prime Ministers, and Directors of Education in 1914 actually spoke in favour of the movement and addressed large audiences. These included the Premiers of the Dominions of Canada and Australia, and the Prime Ministers of Newfoundland, Ontario, British Columbia, West Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, New Zealand, Natal, and Cape Colony—eleven Prime Ministers in all. The one step which is needed to unite the whole Empire in a single bond of sentiment by a universal Imperial annual celebration is recognition of the movement by the Home Government through the hoisting of the Union Jack on Empire Day over all Government buildings in these islands. I would ask, What possible objection can there be to such a course? It has been a matter of extraordinary mystery to me that such a step should not have been taken long ago. The Union Jack is the symbol of imperial unity and flies over the Houses of Parliament. We have it flying over our heads at this very moment. Why not, therefore, over Government buildings on one day in the year?

Then look at the recognition that has been given to this movement by the great municipal authorities. On Empire Day at home, by direction of the Lord Mayors and Mayors of the principal large towns of the country, the Flag is hoisted on the majority of municipal buildings. And if there be any objection to the date of Empire Day, I have already shown that we do not regard May 24 as a necessarily fixed date which cannot be altered. I have said, and I say again, that, if His Majesty's Government think that the day selected is an inadvisable one and that there is any other date that is more suitable, as far as I am concerned—I do not bind anybody else—I would gladly do my best to get that date accepted. The only thing to be remembered is that in the Colonies the date of May 24 is statutory. Therefore it would require legislation in the Colonies, I suppose, to alter it.

The Government may say, "If you have succeeded so well, why on earth do you want anything more? Why cannot you accept the position? Why do you come to us to recognise a movement which is already a success?" My reply is that if such recognition is not given by the Government people are apt to inquire—and many have asked me the question—whether there is not something wrong about the movement, either that it is connected with Party or that it is in some way detrimental to, moral or national interests and therefore should be discouraged in every possible way. I personally have done my utmost—and I am sure those who have heard my addresses will bear me out—to keep this movement clear from all controversial matters and to place it on the broad platform of its watchwords, Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy, Self-sacrifice. There is another very potent reason, to my mind, why the Day should be recognised by the Government. It has been alluded to by the noble Viscount. We have at this moment thousands of brave Colonial soldiers in this country, many of them wounded, who from their childhood have been trained under this movement, in their national schools, who have saluted the Flag, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, sometimes once a year, and who have looked upon the Flag as the symbol of Imperial unity honoured by their Governments, and it has never entered their heads for one moment that it was possible for any Government within the Empire not to recognise the Day. They come over here, and on May 24 find other buildings decorated but the Government buildings without any sign of approval or recognition at all. They ask, Why is this? They will go back saving "We have shed our blood for the Empire, but the Government of the central home of the race do not think it worth while to hoist the Flag on the Day which at home we recognise as the Imperial Day." Then there is another inconsistency. His Majesty's Government permit men-of-war to "dress ship"—I believe I am right, but the noble and gallant Admiral (Lord Beresford) will correct me if I am wrong—on Empire Day when they are in Colonial waters. If that is permitted there, I cannot understand why it is not permitted at home.

Empire Day, I believe, is now a statutory holiday in all the self-governing Colonies except South Africa. I need not go into that question. There are reasons why South Africa is not exactly on the same footing regarding Empire Day as the rest of our self-governing Colonies. I would also say that I quite agree with the noble Viscount that it would not be politic at this moment to ask for a statutory holiday here. We have a great many holidays, and I am not at all sure that I think the real spirit would be kept as well as it is now if the day became a public holiday, which is very largely a question of a public-house holiday. I may be wrong. Then it may be said that patriotism is something which cannot be taught—that is perfectly true—and that therefore it is a thing which grows up of its own in the mind of the Briton, and every Briton ought to be patriotic. That is a fallacy. Patriotism cannot be taught, but the mind of the child must be led to it. It is a matter largely of environment, of knowledge, in a great measure of travel, and of being able to compare one's lot with that of a similar individual under a different Govern ment. I am not in the smallest degree afraid of education, because I feel that education is really the only way in which to teach true patriotism. It is through ignorance that a man becomes unpatriotic. Get rid of ignorance, let him know the actual facts of the case, and he will very soon discover, whatever his lot may be at home, that under the same conditions the lot of the man elsewhere is very often a great deal worse. An effort, therefore, which, like Empire Day, endeavours to instil in the minds of people a higher standard of private and public conduct, a quickened sense of the calls of civic duty, a fuller understanding of Nelson's famous battle signal "England expects that every man will do his duty," should surely deserve well of the country and command the enthusiastic support not only of the Government but of every right-thinking man and Woman. I trust that there may be no hesitation on the part of His Majesty's Government in the reply which they will give to the noble Viscount, and that it will show that they recognise the importance of the matter and intend to avail themselves of the present unique opportunity to unite with indissoluble bonds of steel by a simple act of symbolism the hearts of all His Majesty's loyal subjects both at home and across the seas.


My Lords, we in this country and many outside the bounds of the United Kingdom owe thanks to the noble Viscount for bringing this matter before the House to-night. He has already expressed what has been the debt which we have all owed to the noble Earl who has just spoken for his unfailing efforts, with a wisdom and tact which have made themselves felt everywhere, to promote the cause which he has especially made his own. I observe that in the two speeches, full of interest, to which we have just listened, each of the noble Lords passed without any very marked notice from the terms of Lord Milner's Question relating to the flying of the Union Jack from all Government buildings to the question of the effect which that would have upon schools. I do not quite know whether either of the noble Lords regards schools as Government buildings in the sense that if an affirmative answer were given to the Question which has been asked it would mean that on all schools publicly supported in any way the Flag would be flown.


Personally I did not mean that. All I meant was that if the Government recognised the Day by flying the Flag school committees would be more ready to recognise it.


There I am in complete accord with the noble Viscount. It is its influence upon schools that I should expect would be one of the many advantages that would follow from the adoption of the proposal that Government buildings technically and properly so called should in all cases fly the Flag on some such day, be it the day now observed as Empire Day or some other day in the course of the Year. The question of schools is the point which interests me specially. I have again and again during the last ten years had the question before me in correspondence, both from those who were anxious to promote such an observance in our schools and from those who deprecated it on the ground that it was likely to inculcate militarism. But I greatly doubt whether the feeling expressed by those objectors is now holding its own in this country on any wide scale. I believe that the facts of the last two years have materially changed the whole situation. I agree with the noble Earl who said a few minutes ago that you cannot, as a matter of fact, teach patriotism. It has to be learned, not by lessons inculcated from the teacher, but by the facts with which the child or the growing young man or woman is brought into contact. I strongly believe that there is a possibility of influencing opinion on the part of young lads and maidens, which will influence public opinion on the part of grown men and women a few years hence, which can be brought about absolutely innocently and perfectly helpfully by the marking of some particular day and by what the Lesson of the Flag can teach.

The idea, which certainly did have considerable prevalence a little while ago, that this movement was essentially the teaching of a militarism which must be mischievous has, I believe, been merged altogether in the larger thought of a patriotism which hardly anybody will call mischievous and nearly every one desires most markedly to inculcate. The lesson has been taught not by teachers laying it down but by the ordinary facts which have been before our eyes only too sadly as well as gloriously in the last, eighteen months. That patriotism and militarism do not mean the same thing is now so clear to everybody that it is unnecessary to say anything about it. I do not myself anticipate that if an endeavour were now made by the example set in the way here proposed to give a lead to education authorities to make the most of what we call the Lesson of the Flag in our schools there would be found to be any practical objection taken to it by reasonable men. If there was an endeavour to lay it down as an imperative act, to say that it must be done, other thoughts would spring up, objections would be instigated, and possibly difficulties might arise; but if this lead were given and this kind of influence brought to bear throughout the land, I believe at this moment the result would be an unmixed good. The teachers will say, I think, almost everywhere, that where the Lesson of the Flag is given in schools there is no kind of lesson more appreciated by teachers and children alike, more useful or effective, or more popular in the true sense of the word.

I wonder whether all your Lordships are aware of how much is done with regard to this matter in the United States of America. They have, of course, to deal with a problem with which we are to a great extent unfamiliar. Every year millions of people from other lands, speaking different languages, emigrate to America and send their children of necessity to the public schools. America is presented with the problem, which looks almost insuperable, of reaching the condition when ten years later the children sent to the schools will be feeling themselves to be American citizens and nothing else. Everybody has been startled with the solvent power of American institutions in bringing that about. When people are wondering what has been the reason for that I doubt whether adequate recognition has been given to the Lessons of the Flag which are taught in all the public schools. I dare say some of your Lordships have been present in schools in the United States and seen the marked way in which this thing is done. I have seen it in many schools, but I remember being struck by it particularly in a school of little girls, where I saw two girls marching, as the school opened, carrying the Flag to strains of music and standing in front of the classroom as the children marched to their places and, as a matter of course, saluted the flag, afterwards joining together in singing one of the patriotic songs which America has made all its children adopt. Doing that day by day in some cases, in other cases week by week, or at longer intervals, at any rate doing that repeatedly, must have a very real effect when the teachers remind the children what it is they are learning thereby; and if in America, where the difficulties are so enormous, they have been surmounted to the extent they have, not by this process alone but by processes of which this is one for teaching the patriotism which is so marked a factor in American life to-day, what might we expect, where the difficulties are less, if we were, not necessarily with all the details to which I have referred, to do the same thing in our own schools now? It would make known to the children the magnificent heritage they are allowed to share, what it is for which the Union Jack stands, and why they should remember the lessons which have just been recounted by the noble Earl. We do not require to enact anything of the sort in a statutory way, but we can by the encouragement of a custom give a lead and an example to those who are responsible for our schools which I believe, if followed, will be productive of immeasurable good.

I think Lord Meath said that the only one of our self-governing Dominions which had not made this statutory was South Africa. With great respect to him, I think the position there is a little better than he thinks. In the old Colonies of South Africa it is done, but it is not so in the Transvaal and the other Colonies which have recently become definitely ours in the new sense. I think I am right in saying that the observance of the Day is a statutory provision in Cape Colony and Natal. But whatever be the way of doing it, I believe we have reached a stage in the story of our national life when it is of enormous importance that we should take advantage of the wholesome feeling, not so much of militarism, but of patriotism, loyalty, and thankfulness in our splendid heritage, which the children should be taught it will be their duty, when they grow up, to honour, guard, and defend; and it will be to our own good if we take some step to enable that naturally and as a matter of common usage to be observed alike in the secondary and elementary schools of the Homeland as truly as it is in the Colonies and Dominions beyond the seas.


My Lords, this may seem to be a small question, but to my mind it is one of those little matters which count for much in human affairs. I am afraid it must be said, as has been pointed out by the noble Viscount and by the noble Earl, that we as a people have too much neglected the association of our Flag with Empire Day. As was so well said by the noble Viscount, the Flag is the national symbol of patriotism, and it is so because it recalls the most glorious pages in centuries of our history and the countless deeds of heroism on land and sea. If we neglect that symbol, do we not tend to belittle patriotism itself? And patriotism, after all, is perhaps the most powerful force that inspires the actions of all great nations. When I was in Victoria I was struck by the fact that every little school, even in the far-distant bush, had its flagstaff on which the flag was flown on all occasions of importance. I hope that some day we may reach to that standard in this country. Meanwhile I think we cannot say how much we owe to the great efforts of the noble Earl. Those efforts have resulted in making the observance of Empire Day widely celebrated throughout the Empire, and not merely treated as a symbol and as a ceremony but also utilised to inculcate the teaching of patriotism among the children. Surely in these dark and anxious days when the whole of our best manhood of all classes is making supreme sacrifices for the honour and liberties of the Empire—for all, in fact, that the Flag represents—we should neglect no means of bringing home to our people in this country what the national emblem implies.

As the noble Earl has said, he and I went last week on a deputation to the President of the Board of Education to beg him to try and give a fresh patriotic impulse to the teaching in our schools, knowing well, as we do, that that teaching can never be direct but depends on the inspiration given by the teachers. I do not know what the noble Earl thought, but I am afraid I did not find the result of that deputation very much more encouraging than some answers on this subject which have been given in your Lordships' House. The President of the Board of Education pointed out what has been already done, though that had been most fully and freely acknowledged by the deputation. The Circular to which the noble Earl alluded as having been recently issued by the Welsh Department of the Board of Education is an exact model of what is needed on the higher plane of country and of Empire, and it is so difficult to understand why a Circular on that broader and more comprehensive basis could not be issued for the guidance of the teachers in our national schools. The President spoke of necessary economy, but I do not think that economy enters into this question. Then he said that interference by the central authority might at times not be appreciated. But surely central authority exists to exert power. It struck me at the time that his words seemed to agree with the modern theory that a Government should not lead—even in such a matter as the preparation of a country for defence—but that the people should bestir themselves and move on their own account. That is a theory which I deplore. I think that it is false and dangerous, and that it is demoralising to a Government and to a people. It is because I strongly believe that we need a direct lead from the Government in the observance of Empire Day that I most warmly support the proposal of my noble friend.


My Lords, I should like to add my support to the appeal that has been made that the Government should allow or order the Union Jack to be hoisted over all Government buildings on a certain day in the year. I have been lucky enough in my career to have visited every single British Colony and Dominion, also India, and the United States of America. I was amazed, even in my early days, to see the respect and reverence paid to the Union Jack by those in the Dominions and the Colonies. The children are taught in the schools to respect and honour it. It has always been a matter of surprise to me why in this country we do not honour the Flag in the same way that is done abroad. The most rev. Primate has narrated how Americans revere their Flag. In Canada, even in the schools right out in back-woods, I found a flagstaff, and the children had to pay and wished to pay respect to the Flag every day of their lives. In political arguments during election times I have heard the Union Jack described as a Jingo Flag and as a Party Flag. I always thought that deplorable, and I do not think the people really meant it. I quite agree with the most rev. Primate in thinking that this sort of feeling has now altogether disappeared. Anyway it would not be called a Jingo Flag after the terrible times we have experienced, and the extraordinary loyalty, affection, and enthusiasm shown by the whole of the Dominions to help the Mother Country in the dangers through which she has passed and is passing.

The noble Earl on the Cross Benches asked me about His Majesty's ships being dressed on Empire Day. They are dressed on Empire Day when they are abroad, but I have never myself seen the ships dressed on that day in this country. But, of course, it may be that they are. I joined the Navy in 1859, and I may tell your Lordships that in those days the Flag was not nearly so much respected as it is now. The Colours were hoisted at eight and hauled down at sunset, but there was no ceremony. For the last twenty years, however, we have had a ceremony. In all men-of-war when the Colours are hoisted every one on deck stands to attention and salutes them. On certain days when the Colours are hoisted the guard present arms and the band—if the ship has a band—is turned out. As I say, that is new during the last twenty years. It is the same with the Army. Far greater respect is paid to the Flag now than used to be the case in the old days.

But what I would particularly like to call attention to is this. If you teach the children, as is done in the Dominions, what the Union Jack means, what it has done for the human race, that will teach them patriotism. If the Government would allow or order the Union Jack to be hoisted on all Government buildings on Empire Day—or, as Lord Meath says, on some other day if the present one is not convenient—it would give an example to the whole nation and lead the youth of the country to think what the Flag means. Recall what the Flag has done for our Services. Look how many times we have kept "the Old Flag flying," and think of our seamen who have gone down happy as long as the Colours were still flying. Look at the numbers of lives that have been lost when, the halyards having been shot away, men have gone aloft to hoist the Flag again; they would never give in so long as the Colours were flying. Look at the old Colour Guards in the old days. How often has not an action been eventually won because the Colours which had been taken were retaken and fell back into the right hands. I hope that the Government will think earnestly over this proposal. I agree with Lord Sydenham that there is a great deal more in it than is apparent at first sight. It would remove the idea that is prevalent to a large extent in the Oversea Dominions that the Old Country really does not respect the Flag, and it would have a great deal to do with uniting the Empire more closely together.


My Lords, I am sure that the House as a whole will have sympathised with the sentiments expressed in the speeches that have been made, and not least with the very moderate observations with which the noble Viscount opposite introduced his Motion and the remarks of my noble friend Lord Meath. This question of the official observance in one form or another of May 24 or some other day has caused not a little interest in past years. It was a subject of discussion at the last Imperial Conference in 1911, and although on that occasion the principle was generally accepted there was some divergency of opinion on the precise method to be adopted and the particular day to be chosen.

I think that one or two noble Lords have, so far as my information goes, somewhat overstated the extent to which identity of practice prevails in the different self-governing Dominions on this matter. I am not entirely sure of the facts, but I believe the case to be this. In Canada and in Newfoundland May 24 is celebrated under the name of Victoria Day as a statutory public holiday; and, of course, the other observances to which noble Lords have spoken also prevail on that day. In Australia and in New Zealand the day is not, I think, a public holiday, nor does it receive direct official notice; but in the schools throughout the country, as more than one noble Lord has remarked, it is most, fully observed, and it receives in those loyal Dominions a large measure of popular recognition. So far as South Africa is concerned, in those Provinces which have been mentioned it is, I think, a public holiday, and is there also called Victoria Day. It comes rather near to Union Day—May 31—and at the Con ference I remember that some doubt was expressed at the expediency of having three public holidays so near each other, since Whit Monday often falls about that time; but I believe that as a matter of fact it is observed as a public holiday in the Cape and in Natal. Then as regards India, the noble Earl gave us an interesting account of the countless celebrations that take place all over the Peninsula in the schools and among Boy Scouts on May 24.

As regards the official celebration of the Day here, I am sure the House will agree that His Majesty's birthday must remain the officially celebrated Empire Day. That is regarded as the day of the official celebration of the Empire not only here, but in every part of the Empire; and it is right that it should be so, because in an Empire like ours, containing so many different races and such various civilisations, the loyalty of the Empire is bound to hinge more upon the person of the Ruler than upon any abstract conception, even though that conception be the British Empire itself. Therefore we felt strongly that nothing ought to be done or suggested which would in any way detract from the respect paid throughout the whole of the British Empire to the birthday of the Sovereign. At the same time that does not prevent us from paying due regard to May 24, a well-chosen date as the birthday of the great Queen during whose reign the conception of the Empire as we now understand it was developed and became recognised throughout the world. We all remember the advance which was gained in that conception after the year 1887, the first Jubilee, when for the first time the Dominion Prime Ministers met and when the true meaning of the British Empire was conveyed to many minds which had never before even attempted to realise it. It appears, I think, particularly appropriate that this day should continue to be celebrated, as my noble friend on the Cross Benches has told us it is celebrated, in schools throughout the Empire. It is a good thing, altogether without admixture, I venture to think, of anything that is not good, that May 24 should receive honour in all our schools and by such associations as the Boy Scouts, the various Boys' Brigades, and the other organisations for the training of youth in the right conception of citizenship and their duty to each other and to their country.

I confess that it is very hard to believe that anybody who knows the work to which the noble Earl, Lord Meath, has devoted his whole life for the benefit of his fellow men could associate him with a desire to propagate the ideas of Berlin in our elementary schools. And I cannot help thinking that my noble friend Lord Sydenham may have not entirely appreciated the attitude of the President of the Board of Education when the two noble Lords went on a deputation to him on this subject. I have not heard, except from what fell from my noble friend just now, any account of what passed, but I find it impossible to believe that the President of the Board of Education was deficient in sympathy with the excellent and patriotic ideals so well described by the noble Earl in the speech he has just made. He may have suggested, as we officials are all apt to do when we receive a deputation, certain practical difficulties in carrying out all the requests which a deputation makes. I have never either formed part of a deputation or received one at which some such attitude was not taken up by the official receiver of the request. But I am quite certain that my right hon. friend would have no desire whatever to hamper in any way either the teaching of patriotism and citizenship on the lines which the noble Earl desires or the recognition on a particular day of the Flag as symbolising those ideals. Of that I am quite certain.

All noble Lords have said that they believe that the agreement of the Government to hoist the Union Flag on Government buildings on this Day would have a desirable moral effect in persuading school managers and others to pay respect to the Day. His Majesty's Government agree that the request of the noble Viscount is a reasonable one in itself, and we are glad to accede to it. We quite agree that the effect of this recognition of the Day—without, as I was glad to sec the noble Viscount concurred, any question being raised of making it a public holiday or of further official recognition—will be a popular and appreciated expression of the established union of the Empire, brought home, as various noble Lords have said, during the past months in a way and to an extent in which it never has been before and that this union will be well expressed by the symbolism involved in the hoisting of the Flag.