HL Deb 07 February 1928 vol 70 cc4-38

The King's Speech reported by the LORD CHANCELLOR.


My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I have on one or two occasions ventured to take part in the debates in this House and I have always experienced the kind indulgence of your Lordships. I am thereby encouraged to place myself once more in your hands, hoping for a continuation of that kindness. I am all the more encouraged from the fact that I know that on previous occasions this duty has been undertaken by officers of the Army and the Navy and civilians of much distinction. But, although we are a maritime nation, I believe that this is the first time this duty has been performed by one whose life has been identified with the mercantile marine and who is a member of the Company of Master Mariners. I consider it therefore, not merely a great honour to myself but also a compliment to merchant seamen.

Now I will turn to the first point of the Address to which I would like to refer. I think it must be a matter of satisfaction to all of us to know that the relations of this country with foreign Powers continue to be friendly. That must be the universal wish of everyone, because peace is essential for government, social welfare and industry. Without peace all hopes of national economy are fruitless. I rejoice to see that mention is made of the League of Nations. I believe that the League of Nations is the greatest instrument ever fashioned by man for peace. I think I am right in saying that sixty-four nations are embraced by the League. Although the League has no army and no navy with which to enforce its opinions, yet it must stand to reason that the united voice of this galaxy of people forms a deterrent and a potent factor in arresting a rash, hurried and bloody appeal to arms.

I turn to the next point in the Speech, which is the reference to the very important visit of His Majesty the King of Afghanistan to this country. It is unnecessary for me to say that the whole of the British people will extend a welcome to His Majesty the King of Afghanistan, and that if there is anything in the administration of this country, in our social welfare or in our industry that we can advantageously place before His Majesty, it will be a pleasure to do so. We have nothing in this country to hide. On the contrary, it has always been the proud boast of the British Empire that we are ready to defend and help any self-governing people who are working for the advancement of humanity and for the amity of the world.

I come to the next paragraph in which we are informed that the position in China has greatly improved. That, I am sure, is a matter of great satisfaction to this House. When things first became disturbed in the East, when we first decided to send soldiers overseas and to send warships to the Yangtse, there were some people who declared that this was a policy of militarism and who were ready to attribute aggressive intentions to His Majesty's Government. But the prompt and strong action which we took and our frank declaration at the time have been justified in every step that was taken. If ever it were necessary to prove the truth of the old adage that the surest guarantee of peace in an uncivilised land is a strong defence, we have no need to go further than to quote the action of the British in Shanghai. It cannot, I think, be said too clearly that whenever there is a stable and strong Government established and capable of speaking for the whole of China, then we are ready to discuss all our treaties and agreements on the basis that, given fair trade and protection of the lives of those who reside in China, we accept without qualification the principle that, China shall be for the Chinese.

The next paragraph refers to the Treaty of Arbitration with the United States of America. I think it is a matter of great acceptance that this Treaty, which was signed in 1908 and is now expiring, is under consideration for renewal. It must be the opinion of every person in this country and of every person in America that, if and when any misunderstandings arise, it would be far better than entering into acrimonious dispute and discussion to refer the matter to the impartial arbitration that can be obtained at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. After all, a policy of arbitration is only in keeping with the civilisation and the standard of education of the two greatest English-speaking nations in the world. While I am speaking of America, I cannot refrain from expressing my regret that any words should be uttered implying the possibility of ill-feeling as a consequence of our disappointment at the result of the Naval Conference at Geneva, or in connection with naval shipbuilding programmes. Such an idea is monstrous—indeed, it is worse than monstrous; it is ridiculous, When you come to think of it, ever since the world began it has been the custom of man to arm. I may say that for centuries it has been the habit of nations to arm for purposes of offence and defence, and the profession of arms has almost become second nature to man. Is it not asking a good deal to expect that great Powers should all of a sudden, without any hesitation or questioning be prepared to reverse the procedure of centuries?

I am a firm believer in the policy of disarmament, but I believe its progress may be marked by halting steps. The spirit of disarmament cannot be forced from above but has to grow from beneath in the universal good will of the people. To sign an agreement simply for the sake of signing an agreement, at Geneva or anywhere else, is fatuous, but when the effort in favour of disarmament grows, why should it be impossible for the British people and the American people to consider their requirements in defence without causing heart-burning and jealousy to each other? Just as surely as I stand here, I am convinced that, whatever Navy may be built by America, that Navy is going to be used in the cause of peace, like the British Navy, and that, as time goes on, the two great peace-loving nations, the American and the British, will come together and renew their conversations and by mutual good will and natural impulse will agree upon the further delimitation and reduction of armaments.

I cannot leave our overseas connections without referring for a minute to India. I know that all of your Lordships are watching the progress of that very important Commission which has just gone to India, the result of whose work is fraught with such great possibilities. For six centuries or more before we went to India that land was under Moslem rule and, as everyone knows, Moslem rule is the antithesis of responsible and democratic government. Since we have been there, by example, by education and by industry we have led India along the paths of civilisation to the position which made possible the Act of 1919. Under that Act, India was given a greater part in shaping her own fortunes and destiny than ever before. After eight years' experience of that Act it is not surprising that there should be a feeling that we might examine the situation for a possibility of finding means of still further strengthening the administration of India and, perhaps, making further progress along the road of self-determination and Dominion status.

I regret that there has been some ill-feeling towards the Commission on the ground that no Indian was appointed to it. But that must be on account of misunderstanding, because it is obvious that in government as in a game those who are taking an active part are seldom in a good position to act as referees. And when it becomes understood that it is the intention of the Commission to give every opportunity to every section of Indian opinion to present its views, I think much of the ill-feeling will disappear. At any rate we here are confident that through the energy and foresight of Sir John Simon and his colleagues we shall in due course receive a report which will be well worthy the earnest consideration of this House and of Parliament.

Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—

"Most Gracious Sovereign.—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Brtain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(The Duke of Montrose.)


My Lords, if the noble Duke who has just moved the Resolution has expressed a certain diffidence in doing so I think I have very much more reason for the same feeling because those who have been in my position before have usually had the excuse of a late accession to your Lordship's House. I myself have been a member of your Lordship's House for more years than I care to recollect and I am acutely conscious to-day of the neglect—I trust not entirely of my own default—of the privileges and duties of that position. I turn to the gracious Speech from the Throne, and I note that my noble friend has addressed himself, as I think is not unusual, to those matters which refer to imperial and foreign policy, and has left it to me to allude to some of those things that refer more especially to home affairs. First, I would say with what pleasure I have heard—and I know that you have all heard with pleasure—of the signs of improvement in our foreign and home trade. We know that such words in this connection are not lightly spoken, and I think they will bring hope in many places in which there is sore need.

I turn from that to that brief sentence in the Speech which, inter alia, relates, I believe, to the enfranchisement of some five millions or six millions of our fellow countrywomen It has been said that brevity is the soul of wit, and, if that is so, I think we may adduce yet one more of the many merits of the gracious Speech. Much has been said and written with regard to this question, and I would only say this. I do not find myself in agreement with those people who think and say that the Parliamentary vote is a matter of inherent right. I look upon it rather as a matter of privilege of this great and free nation. That being so, I cannot but think that those people who look upon election time rather as a licensed period in which to shout down the arguments of those people with whom they may imagine that they are in disagreement are unworthy of that great privilege; and, if that is so, it seems to me that we ought to look on this great measure, not from the point of view of how this section of the people are likely to record their votes, but of how they are likely to employ their intelligence and zeal in the exercise of the privilege which has been accorded to them. I do not think that any one who has studied the question would contend that that section of the womanhood of our population which has already received the franchise has shown any less appreciation of the privilege, and taken any less care, or exercised any less zeal than has the manhood of the country; and I venture to think that as you go lower in the youth scale that comparison is more in their favour than otherwise, I think that this contemplated measure is likely to raise, rather than lower, the standard of the franchise, which some people think is dangerously low already. If that is so, I think that your Lordships will consider the projected measure a wise and states manlike one.

I come next to that paragraph which speaks of the incidence of local taxation on industry and agriculture. If I am right, I see in that the contemplation of some great measure which will deal with the revision of our whole system of local taxation, a system which many will think is certainly archaic and some will think is almost obsolete. I find it difficult to think of any measure which has greater potentialities of improving the condition of all classes of industry in this country, I wish to speak more especially of agriculture, and of how that particular paragraph affects it. If I occupy your attention for some few minutes I do not seek to excuse myself, because I am well aware both of the interest your Lordships' House has always taken in the question of agriculture, and of the great store of accumulated knowledge of the subject which your Lordships possess. I do not believe there is one of your Lordships who is not aware into what crisis that great industry has fallen. It has been said by many people that in their crisis the farming community have shown themselves in certain respects to be unreasonable folk. It may be so. I find that in one respect it, is difficult, perhaps, to acquit them. It has been authoritatively stated that there has been a pledge amounting to a guarantee that during the life of the present Government the industry of agriculture should be restored to full prosperity. I submit to your Lordships that there has been no such pledge and there could be no such guarantee. It, were, I think, as easy to guarantee a succession of good harvests as to guarantee the prosperity of agriculture.

There is but one method by which the prosperity of agriculture can be guaranteed and that is by the imposition of protective duties. As your Lordships are well aware, that proposition was put before the country some six years ago and was rejected Not only was it rejected in the industrial towns and districts, but there was a measure of rejection even in the country districts. There are many of us, I think, who believe that that was a wrong decision, and who believe that that decision may are long be reversed. But I think there is no one here who can deny that decision or can deny that it absolutely prohibited any chance of such a pledge as was believed to have been given. If you consider that the farming class is an unreasonable class, can you criticise or even attribute blame to it? Desperate men are rarely reasonable men, and I think you can hardly deny that the great proportion of the farming class are desperate men. I have been a farmer for thirty years in this country and elsewhere. I have been a, farmer of necessity and certainly not from choice in contradistinction to being an agriculturist. Many of your Lordships will appreciate or have heard how the difference is defined. The agriculturist is a man who makes his money in the town and spends it on the farm; the farmer is a man who makes his money on the farm and spends it in the town. If that be a true definition I should find it difficult to put my hands on a farmer to-day in East Anglia.

It has been put to me, and I appreciate it: "It is easy for you who live in the worst districts of the worst part of East Anglia to exaggerate the gravity of the situation." I agree, and I appreciate that; but I reply that it is equally easy for those who follow other occupations and live in happier parts of the country to minimise the gravity of the situation. I know land that has been farmed, and progressively farmed, for 500 years and more that is going out of cultivation to-day. I know farmers' families who have lived on the land for ten generations; but they are leaving now, broken. I know small men who invested all their savings in the acquisition of farms—in many cases those savings were war savings—and who have worked not seven and a-half or eight hours a day but twelve, thirteen and fourteen hours to maintain a very moderate standard of living, but who now are leaving, broken and disillusioned men.

I will call your Lordships' attention to this. I know men of great experience, of great intelligence, who know every move of the agricultural profession, who have examined all the new methods of research, who have the money to put such things into operation and who, in almost any other industry, would have been rich and prosperous men. Those men have lost more money per acre than those who are using the obsolete methods of their fathers. They may be unreasonable men; but I have known the farmers of East Anglia all my life. I have known them in peace and I have known them in war. I have known them in war when they have been the idols of successive Administrations. I have known them in peace when it has sometimes seemed, wrongly no doubt, that they have been the playthings of politics. I say with full conviction that there is no body of men which has deserved better of the country and there is no body of men which this country can less afford to lose. It is for that reason that I welcome the legislation that is indicated. I welcome it, indeed, because I believe that in full time it will be of absolute assistance.

I welcome further the next paragraph which deals with the granting of credits to the agricultural community. I believe that may be of immediate benefit. I do not speak so much of short-term credits, partly because I believe that in the past credit has been reasonably abundant and because to get the best out of credit you must have some opportunity of using it to advantage. But with regard to long-term credits I see a very great advantage in this measure. For one thing it will tend to increase a class of men in whom His Majesty's Government have expressed themselves as having a special interest—the class of occupier-owners, a class in which this country is dangerously deficient at present. If they have credit in buying their farms it will release their capital, which in most cases is none too plentiful, for the carrying on of their holdings. Still more, if this credit is to be available, as I take it it will be, for improvement and maintenance, I welcome it. The great landlords, and all landlords of past and present generations, have been accused, I think, of most crimes, and although to-day those accusations seem to have died down I venture to think it is largely a case of de mortuis nil nisi bonum. But those landlords have seldom been accused, I think, of a failure to keep in full repair and maintenance that portion of the land of the country of which they have been the temporary guardians. They still have the will to do that, but they have largely lost the power owing to successive impositions of a capital levy, a levy which has extended even to the farmer's raw material. If this measure, as it will be, I take it, is meant to preserve the country's property in the highest state of cultivation, I think there can be few of your Lordships who will not welcome it.

I have spoken too long to your Lordships and I have but one thing more to say. It is with regard to a matter which is outside the confines of the gracious Speech but yet may be one in which there may be as great possibilities as there are in the measures mentioned in the gracious Speech. I allude to those conversations which have been taking place between great leaders of industry on the one hand and great leaders of the workers' organisations on the other. Those con-organisations versations have had a dual, I would almost say a twin intention: on the one hand to improve the position of the workers in every industry and on the other to put a stop to those quarrels for which the country has paid, and is to-day still paying, so dearly. It would be, I think, folly to expect too much and too quickly of those conversations and those efforts. They represent to me as it were a weakly plant growing amidst the weeds of suspicion and mistrust, but I believe all your Lordships will hope and pray that in the full course of time those efforts will meet with a worthy harvest. It only remains for me formally to second the Motion.


My Lords, I have listened with great pleasure to the two speeches which we have just heard. Both of them were inspired by energy and conviction and the speech of the noble Lord who seconded was also moved by an eloquence which was very genuine, an eloquence founded obviously on deep feeling when he referred to the position of agriculture in this country. That those two speeches should have been as vigorous as they have been is the more creditable because of the somewhat exiguous material which is contained in the gracious Speech, the most exiguous document of the kind which I think I have seen within a pretty long Parliamentary memory. The noble Duke proceeded to his task with the gallantry which is distinctive of the profession from which he came, and, further, he spoke with an emphasis which reminded us agreeably of that vigour which he showed when he addressed us not long ago upon the training of young seamen and when he alluded to social topics. The seconder of the Motion referred to agriculture in a way which I think did him great credit, for in the Speech there is very little about agriculture indeed. There is a reference to rates, but what that reference means none of us know. There is a reference also to credits. There we are in almost ranker ignorance. The noble Lord did not throw any light on these things; indeed how could he?—but we shall doubtless hear of them. We are deprived of the pleasant presence of the genial Lord Bledisloe upon the Government Bench, a man who struggled courageously with adversity through a long period, but I am glad to think that his place is taken by Lord Stradbroke, a man of energy whom some of us remember for his vigorous efforts in connection with the Territorial Force and who has since then filled a distinguished position in the King's Dominions across the sea. Lord Stradbroke will have opportunities of enlightening us on what these somewhat cryptic references to agriculture in the gracious Speech really import.

It is quite evident what this Speech is. It is not by accident that it is of a cryptic character. It was not expedient—and I do not question the reasons for the decision—to put too much in it on this occasion. After all, a General Election begins to draw near. It is probably more than a year off, but a year is not a very long time in politics and it is well to be sure with what it is you are going to the country before you embark on your adventure. Consequently as little as possible appears to have been put into the gracious Speech which should enable much discussion to take place beforehand. There are a great many omissions. One omission is in reference to dealing with the constitution of your Lordships' House. As I have said before, I am very dubious of the advantage to those who promote the cause of House of Lords reform of bringing forward propositions. When they have been brought forward they have gone to pieces in a rather hopeless fashion, but there is a great deal that you could do that you have not tried to do, without proceeding to any extreme measure of reform. I have often asked myself why it is that the debates in this House, often of high excellence, are so little attended. One reason is the want of responsible Ministers in the House. If, by a very simple change of procedure, one which might not involve legislation but which could be done by Standing Order, you could enable Cabinet Ministers in the other House to come and make statements and take part in debate here without giving votes, and if you could enable noble Lords who occupy Cabinet rank and sit on that Bench to do the same in the other House, you would make Parliament a much more lively thing than it is at present. More than that, you would get people here who would be capable of giving some undertaking instead of only reading from a typewritten proof and then saying they had no authority to say "Yes" or "No" even to the simplest proposition. These I refer to only as things that the Government might have thought it possible to do having regard to the embarrassments in which all plans of more far-reaching reforms have involved them up to this time.

But that is not the only subject which is absent from this Speech. Where is the Factory Bill referred to? Where is any reference to the agreement come to at Geneva but to which His Majesty's Government have never given their assent—the agreement about industrial relations, hours of labour and so on? We should like to know about these things, because they are part of current policy, and not only part of current policy but they are matters of which we should hear something before long. Then there is no reference to Poor Law reform and the great questions connected with the guardians which will arise in that connection. All that may have been wisely kept back; but it suggests a little that His Majesty's Government have not fully made up their minds on these questions. They have been in office a long time and the period is coming when at least they ought to be able to give us some definite indication of their policy on these points. There are no such indications in this gracious Speech.

The noble Duke who spoke first referred to India. Well, India is a very difficult subject—I think more difficult than is currently realised. East is wholly different from West, and if you wish to approach the East you must not approach it with Western notions. It is very true that this country has done magnificently in the government of India, magnificently in the way of policing India. We have got law and order there, and we have protected India. But what effort have we made, what progress have we made, in penetrating into the meaning of the Indian mind and the spirit in which to approach these things? It is my fortune to see a good many people who come from India, not so much politicians as scholars and thinkers, and to read a good many of their books written in the spirit of the East, and I am always filled with depression because of the great gulf which I find to separate the outlook here from the outlook there. Until you find some means of bringing the two outlooks at least to this point, that we may understand the Indians and that they may understand us, I doubt whether we shall even find common ground on which to negotiate about the Constitution of India. That is for the future, but I do not think it is a problem that can be solved without much study of the history and development of Indian thought and particularly of Hindu thought.

There are a number of things about which we should like to have known a great deal more than we do know. I do not complain of the franchise. I think we do understand what that means. And in the references made to agriculture I was interested and glad to see that the noble Lord who seconded the Motion very clearly realised that for the present at all events—I do not carry it further than his own words—there is no practical possibility of subsidising the farmer by the indirect taxation of the consumer. We may wipe that out. But I agree with him that the problem remains, how is the farmer to get more for what he produces?—because until he does get more I do not see much solution for the farmer's problem. It may be that the farmer loses some of the profit which he ought to be receiving by the indirect channels through which his product gets to the consumer. I do not know. It is a very difficult question. But I should have liked to hear that the Government had thoroughly explored that and that it had explored it, not by casual conferences, but scientifically. We have a body called the Committee of Civil Research which was set up to go into such questions, and I should have liked to hear, if there had been thorough investigation of the question, whether there is any loss of possible profit to the farmer in the way in which his product reaches the consumer. In other countries it is proved to be so. It may not prove so here because I think agricultural procedure in this country is one of unusual complication and difficulty, but I deeply sympathise with the noble Lord who seconded the Address when he said that the problem is so serious that some of the best men in the country are giving up the endeavour because they can make no more of it than they have done.

There is very little about foreign affairs in the gracious Speech. We shall hear more of the Treaty that is under discussion with the United States before long. At least I hope we shall. Does it cover only matters justiciable or matters that are, to use an American phrase, not justiciable? These are matters upon which we should like to be informed. We shall hope to have a fuller statement than the few lines which are here before the Session has run much further, Then there is nothing in the gracious Speech about the coal question, a question which is at least as serious at this moment as the farming question. What is the Government doing about the coal question? I think it is a very difficult question indeed. The state of South Wales and of Durham is one that almost beggars description at this moment and I should like to know what steps are to be taken or whether investigation discloses that no steps have been taken to put that right. It is a serious omission in His Majesty's gracious Speech which we should like to have supplied to us orally by Ministers who take part in the debate. There are other matters about which I will not trouble your Lordships at this moment. We shall hear later what the changes are that are contemplated in London rating—that is a very great and very serious question—and the Common Poor Fund, which raises points of high principle. On all these points I will say again that the gracious Speech is a very exiguous one. It seems as if the Government say: "We are anxious not to commit ourselves prematurely, we have an election not very far off"; and they consequently have not given that amount of information we should have liked about what the Session is likely to bring forth.


My Lords, I am very glad to associate myself very sincerely with the congratulations offered by the noble Viscount who has just spoken to the noble Duke and the noble Lord who moved and seconded the Address. It is a great thing, I think, and a useful thing, that we should have in your Lordships' House so eminent a representative of the mercantile marine as the noble Duke who moved the Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. The mercantile marine is one of the great services of the Empire. It is one of which we are most proud and it is the service which perhaps almost more than any other assisted us to win the great War. It is therefore a very considerable help that we should have a representative of that great service in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord who seconded the Address is, as he intimated to us, no novice in this place. Indeed I remember, if he will allow me to say so, the admirable speech he made last Session in regard to the Colony of Kenya and the excellent impression which he left upon my mind. I hope both of them will frequently take part in the discussions in your Lordships' House.

I turn first of all to the mention which is made in the gracious Speech to Shanghai. I rejoice to see that the Government have repeated their declaration that they adhere to the policy which they published a year ago. It seemed to me at the time that the policy which they declared was entirely wise, and although much which has happened in China since might have inclined them to deflect from the lines then laid down, it seems altogether to the good that they should not only adhere to that policy but repeat on this occasion in a solemn and formal manner that adherence. I wish I could congratulate them equally in regard to the other paragraphs relating to foreign affairs.

I must confess that in regard to the League of Nations I feel, I believe in common with a great many other people, a profound sense of disappointment with regard to the action taken by the Government. It was not very long ago that a document was issued dealing with the attitude of His Majesty's Government to various suggestions that were made to them in connection with the League of Nations and the action that they should take. I venture to hope that the noble Marquess will be good enough to lay that document upon the Table of your Lordships' House, and perhaps even to have it circulated among your Lordships as a Parliamentary Paper. I think that this would be an act of respect to your Lordships' House, for this is an important document and one in which I am quite sure that a great many people take a keen interest. I found myself unable to secure a printed copy, and could obtain only a "roneo'd" copy of this document. It is of such great importance that I hope we may have it circulated as a Parliamentary Paper.

There are three points in connection with the League of Nations on which His Majesty's Government have disappointed those who hoped for better things. In regard to the signing of the Optional Clause, in regard to all-in arbitration Treaties and in regard to the Eight-Hours Labour Convention, we had hoped that His Majesty's Government might have been ready to take a step forward. We rejoiced at Locarno, but Locarno is a mild step and not an end in itself. In these matters it is almost impossible to remain still. You must either go forward or go back. I regret to think that, in so far as they have not gone forward, His Majesty's Government have seemed to take before the world a position of being a drag upon the activities of the League of Nations. I can assure them that they will receive a great deal of support if they can see their way to go further in the direction of supporting the League of Nations.

I turn to another question of foreign affairs which is not mentioned in the Speech, but to which I have on more than one occasion ventured to make reference. I refer to the occupation of the Rhineland. I am glad to think that there are features which show a sensible improvement. The brothels which were full of white women and were used by both black and white troops have now been closed, and this is, I think, a matter of very great satisfaction to those who take an interest in this subject. But even now the numbers in occupation are far larger than the numbers in occupation while Germany held the land in full sovereignty. I think it must be clear to your Lordships that it is a very grave interference with the civilian administration that there should be more troops than can be provided with adequate barracks, with the result that a large number of troops have to be provided for by taking over schools, municipal offices and other institutions which are not designed for that purpose, which results in great embarrassment to the general civilian administration of those districts. Now that Germany has been admitted to the League of Nations and even has a seat upon the Council and while she is honourably discharging her financial obligations, it seems to me that something might be done with regard to the reduction—for the moment, at any rate, we might be content with that—of the Armies of Occupation. At this time the Armies of Occupation number 60,000, instead of the 45,000 that lived in the same territory during the time when Germany was in full control. I venture to say that, in regard both to one point and to the other, it would be a very real advantage if His Majesty's Government could see their way to urge this consideration upon their Allies and to take active steps on their own part to secure a reduction in the occupation of the Rhineland.

I come to another matter which is not mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne, although I had thought that it had almost become a hardy annual. I refer to the question of economy. When the Government have included a reference to economy and preached economy, they have generally practised extravagance, so I hope that on this occasion, when we see nothing about it, we may conclude that the Government really mean to do something in the direction of economy during the present year. Your Lordships will remember that in the course of last year we had a very interesting discussion in your Lordships' House on the question of economy. A good deal of support was offered to me by noble Lords on the Benches opposite if I would omit from the Resolution that I had the honour to move any reference to the armed Forces of the Crown. I did not see my way to accept an offer of support on those terms, and while noble Lords opposite pressed His Majesty's Government to reduce, as far as they could, expenditure on the Civil Services, my friends and I laid more emphasis on the armed Forces of the Crown.

To my delight I find that His Majesty's Government have accepted the advice of my friends rather than of their own friends who sit behind them. It was only at the end of last year that they announced that one cruiser less was going to be built, which is at any rate something, and we gather from various announcements that have lately been made that the Ministries threatened with extinction are, after all, going to survive. It was by pinning their faith to the extinction of those Ministries and similar measures that noble Lords opposite hoped they were going to effect economies, so I note with delight that His Majesty's Government have accepted our advice rather than the advice of their own followers. In the course of the present Session we are bound, I think, to go further and to urge His Majesty's Government not to be weary in well-doing but to see whether still further economies may not be possible. This is, of course, especially necessary because economies must become more and more difficult as time goes on. Economies which are possible this year will not be possible next year, and economies which were possible last year may not be possible this year. The Government make it difficult for all their successors so long as they retain the present system of extravagance.

I am the more inclined to press His Majesty's Government with regard to this matter after reading a letter which is to be found in the life of King Edward VII written by Sir Sidney Lee. Here is an extract from a letter which was sent to his late Majesty by Lord Fisher, whom nobody would accuse of being a "little Navy man." He wrote:— Reduced Navy Estimates are no sign of reduced naval efficiency. On the contrary swollen Estimates engender parasites both in men and ships which hamper the fighting qualities of the Fleet. The pruning knife is not pleasant for fossils anal ineffectives but it has to be used, and the tree is more vigorous for the loss of excrescences. It is on those lines that I hope that in the course of the present Session we shall urge His Majesty's Government to see if they cannot take still further steps in this matter of economy in armaments.

A remarkable series of figures, which I shall venture to quote to your Lordships, was given by, I think, a Select Committee on Naval Estimates only a short time ago with regard to the personnel and staff of the Navy. Since 1914 the number of ships has been reduced from 618 to 394. This is a material reduction in the number of ships. The personnel in the Navy has been reduced since 1914 from 151,000 to 102,000. That is altogether satisfactory, and I have no wish to quarrel with His Majesty's Government over those figures. But we find that the staff at the Admiralty, which has to look after a smaller number of ships and a smaller personnel, has increased out of all proportion. The staff has increased from 1900 to 3,026. It may be that a thinking staff has been appointed at the Admiralty like the General Staff at the War Office, in order to consider future possibilities. But nothing can excuse an increase of that kind. At any rate, there should have been a decrease, and many of your Lordships will remember how we were told by my noble friend Lord Oxford and Asquith that the Committee of Imperial Defence never worked so well as when it consisted of about four officers and a single messenger boy. A staff at the Admiralty on those lines, or even on somewhat more ample lines, would still allow a very large reduction in the personnel at the Admiralty at the present time.

I take one other figure. It is a figure showing the increased cost in the collection of taxes. Since 1914 the increase in the amount of taxes is so enormous that one cannot really compare the actual figures. I would rather give the percentages. The percentage of the cost of collection in 1919–20—your Lordships will see that I am taking figures when the amount of taxes was already very high—was7 per cent. of the amount collected. In the year 1925–26 the percentage was 1.53; that is to say, it had gone up from something like one-half per cent. to about. 1½ per cent. That obviously is one of the points which might, very well be inquired into by His Majesty's Government, with, I hope, the prospect of some success in the way of reduction of the expenditure involved.

Then, like the noble and harried Viscount who spoke before me, I should like to refer to other matters which were not referred to in the gracious Speech from the Throne—the Factories Bill, the Poor Law Bill, and the removal of slums, upon which we had an admirable speech at the end of last Session from the right rev. Prelate who is now sitting opposite (the Lord Bishop of Southwark). None of those things unfortunately is mentioned in the King's Speech. I quite understand that it may be because His Majesty's Government—if I may guess that the Press have made an intelligent anticipation—have some hope of adjourning in July and beginning a new Session later in the year. If that is their intention, it would explain the fact that these things are not mentioned, but we should be glad to know whether that is the intention of the Government, and whether they still hope within the limits of this Parliament to bring in measures dealing with these various matters.

Another subject to which no reference was made, to my regret, was that of the unemployed. I still think that this is an outstanding problem, perhaps the most difficult and urgent problem that we have with us to-day; and I cannot help thinking that some sympathetic reference to it in the gracious Speech would have been very appropriate at the present time. We are in real danger of becoming callous to this evil in our midst. It is a thing that we ought never to allow ourselves to forget, that there are still over one million people unemployed in this country. I should have welcomed any reference that showed that this matter was engaging the attention of His Majesty's Government day by day, as I think it ought to do. I join with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Haldane, in expressing approval of the conferences which are now taking place between the leaders of industry and the leaders of the trade unions. There is nobody in this country who will not wish that they may be crowned with success.

Finally, we come to the omission of any reference to the reform of your Lordships' House. We should, I am sure, be very glad indeed if the noble Marquess the Leader of the House was able to tell us whether His Majesty's Government have abandoned hope of dealing with the matter during the present Parliament, or whether the omission from the Speech means simply that they have no intention of dealing with it during the course of the present Session. It is a matter which is certainly of very real interest to every member of your Lordships' House. We should have been very glad to know more about it. Almost in connection with this—because it is another matter of constitutional reform—is franchise reform. The noble Marquess will probably remember that some years ago, I think in 1925, the Home Secretary expressed his intention of appointing a Speaker's Conference to deal with the question of the franchise, and I think also adumbrated the possibility that methods of voting would also be taken into consideration at the same time. That, of course, has reference to some possible amendment of the voting laws by which the Government of the day should represent the majority of the people of this country.

I think that some improvement might be made in the proceedings of your Lordships' House if Bills were introduced into this House in the earlier part of the Session, not necessarily Bills of important political issue, although those also might sometimes be presented to your Lordships' House for consideration, but Bills of less importance, which might very well be presented to your Lordships' House between now and Easter when this House generally has very little to do. They would then be sure of receiving full attention—certainly a great deal more attention than your Lordships can give to Bills when they are brought up within the last week of a Session of Parliament. That, I am sure, would be a reform of this House which would be approved by every member who attends with anything like regularity. I conclude by expressing the hope that if His Majesty's Government propose to deal with the franchise they will at the same time take into consideration the question of so amending the methods of voting that we may in future be governed by a Party which represents a majority in the State, rather than by one which, like His Majesty's Government, represents only a minority of the voters.


My Lords, let me in the first place join in the congratulations which have been so fully given by the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the Opposition and the noble Earl to my two noble friends, the mover and seconder of the Address. In my long experience I have seldom listened, if I may venture to say so in their presence, to two more thoughtful speeches than those which we heard delivered this afternoon. My noble friend the noble Duke is a man of great independence of judgment and great observation, and he applied those qualities to very large subjects of public interest in respect of our relations with America and of our government of India, and we listened to him not only with great respect, but I think with great profit.

My noble friend the seconder was certainly not less thoughtful and not less independent. His references to industry and to agriculture were well worth hearing, but more especially his references to agriculture, because he has, as he explained to us, great experience of agriculture and, unfortunately for him, of agriculture not of the most successful kind. Therefore we listened to his diagnosis of the maladies from which agriculture is suffering and his analysis of the possible remedies with the greatest interest. The only other observation I should like to add with reference to the speeches of my two noble friends is that I was inclined to re-echo with some emphasis the kind of apology which my noble friend the seconder gave to your Lordships' House for not having taken more part in the debates of this House. When we listened to him we realised how much we had missed and we cannot help hoping that both my noble friends, the noble Duke and the noble Lord, will turn over a new leaf, if I may say so, and refresh us by such speeches on future occasions as they have delivered this evening.

Now I turn to the critics of the Government, the two noble Lords who sit opposite me. The noble and learned Viscount had not very much to say about external affairs. He just mentioned them, but I did not gather that they were—at any rate at this particular moment—the object of his persistent criticism. The noble Earl, on the contrary, described a good many things in regard to which he thought the Government had failed in the matter of external affairs. But let me first put out of the way what was almost a complaint, at any rate a comment, which he made upon a certain Paper which has not been circulated to your Lordships' House. That Paper has reference to the security and disarmament inquiries which are going on in Geneva and was a full answer to certain questions which had been put. The only reason why that Paper has not been laid before your Lordships is that at the time it was issued, during the Recess, it was fully published in the newspapers. I am very sorry if the noble Earl thinks we treated your Lordships with any disrespect in not circulating the Paper. I need not tell him that if he or any other noble Lord wants a copy, we will make it our business to supply it at once to any of our colleagues who ask us for it. I think it would be hardly in the interests of that economy which we are all preaching, including the noble Earl, if we circulated the Paper to everybody whether they wanted it or not. But so far as the noble Earl and any other noble Lord who takes an interest in the subject are concerned, the Paper shall of course be sent to them.

Then the noble Earl criticised our attitude at Geneva. I would refer him to the very full speech made by my noble friend Lord Cushendun on a recent occasion in which he dealt with all these points. I do not propose this afternoon to go into them in any detail. As everybody knows, we are in favour of arbitration as far as we possibly can apply that method, having due regard to the very heavy interests which we have to safeguard. The policy of conciliation, we may say, we would apply universally, and even arbitration as far as we can. There are limits, undoubtedly, beyond which one cannot go. I do not propose to make an exhaustive enumeration of those limits but they are indicated in two directions. We have, in the first place, to be quite certain that in any policy we pursue we carry with us the heartfelt support of our fellow subjects in the Dominions. That appears to be fundamental. For another thing, we intend to promise nothing which we do not think we can rely upon this country performing. Undoubtedly there are certain subjects upon which one can only give that assurance with a certain amount of caution. There are subjects of such a vital character that you cannot be certain that Parliament, which is supreme, would meet the obligation which you undertook in the name of this country, when the very critical test should come. Those limits must be respected. I dc not think it is the part of any honest man, certainly it is not the part of any honest country to promise what it is not quite sure it can perform. Those limitations must have careful regard paid to them.

I will not, dwell upon the garrison in the Rhineland because I do not think we differ from the noble Earl. I am not sure that I have in mind exactly what he said, but we are very anxious, of course, to diminish the garrison in the Rhineland as soon as we can. We are bound in respect of it not by our own will only, not by our own wishes, but by the necessity of common action with foreign Powers. But so far as we are concerned, we are anxious to diminish it.

The noble Earl said a word about economy. He never makes a speech in your Lordship's House now into which he does not introduce economy. Although I am a great admirer of the noble Earl's speeches, I think, if I may say so with great respect, there is a certain sameness in the kind of observations he makes upon this subject. But to-day there was a new note. His criticism to-day was not that we had declined to do what he asked, but that we had done what he asked us to do. That is what appeared to bite deeply into the noble Earl's soul—that we had actually followed his advice. I am afraid we have not followed his advice so fully as he thinks; but we have done something certainly in the way of economy in respect to armaments which I hoped the noble Earl would accept without any element of that acidity of which he has such a great command. It is true that we have postponed, and I think we were fully justified in postponing, the building of a certain number of cruisers: two in the present year and one in the year which is to come. That is a proceeding which I think is justified from a defence point of view, and which is undoubtedly a very considerable economy. We have to be very careful in these matters. None of these decisions is taken without the most careful consideration. It is not a sort of slapdash decision in a Department, but it has to be most carefully considered by a great many of my colleagues of both Houses before any such reduction, even to the limited extent of which I have spoken, is permitted. Please let there be no misunderstanding. We have made no change whatever in the future programme of shipbuilding in this country. That is to go on upon the same principles as have already been announced in both Houses of Parliament. But so far as the present year and the next year are concerned we have permitted ourselves to make a certain postponement which we think may be safe for the country and of advantage to the financial position in which we stand.

I will not dwell any longer upon that economy. The noble Earl knows as well as I do that as we have done our best in the Navy so we have done our best in the Army and in the Air Force. We certainly have not exaggerated what we have considered to be necessary in the way of expenditure for the fighting Services of the country. But that is not the only respect in which we have considered economy. The noble Earl has evidently read the paragraph in the gracious Speech which refers to rating and the possibility of dealing with rating. We certainly hope that if the inquiries which the Government are conducting in that matter lead to fruit the consequences may be a very considerable ultimate economy in the public administration of this country. So that I do not think we are open to the criticisms of the noble Earl in respect of economy except, perhaps, in the matter of the suppression of certain Ministries. If I remember aright I think the noble Earl himself made several criticisms last time we discussed this subject upon the ground that he did not think the suppression of these Ministries would involve any substantial economy. We are always wrong in the mind of the noble Earl—if we suppress the Ministries it does not mean much; if we do not suppress them we ought to save as much as we can. The Government is always wrong in the view of the noble Earl. Personally I regret that these Ministries, or at any rate two of them, are not to be suppressed, but I do not think there is very much money in it; it would be more the moral effect which the decision would have had. But the moral effect sinks into insignificance when we are considering the great policy which is foreshadowed, I hope, in the rating paragraph of the Speech, which is really the important matter.

I turn to the criticisms. The noble and learned Viscount's main criticism was the exiguous character of the Speech. I think that is its great merit. To me nothing in the world is more absurd than the pompous Speeches with which I have been familiar, which promised a great number of things that everybody knew were not in the least likely to be performed. It is the universal experience of us all, I care not in what quarter of the House we sit, that the legislative programme which is generally set forth at the beginning of the Session is never carried through. I think I should be within the mark when I say that never more than fifty per cent. at the outside is ever carried through. I really think in our old country we have reached a time of life when we might abandon that sort of thing. Why should we promise what we, cannot perform? Why should we hold out to your Lordships and the country a programme of legislation which we do not think is the least likely to bear fruit?

I think the reduced programme is a very good thing and I say so with great emphasis in answer to a special question of the noble Earl's as to the date at which we hope the Prorogation of this Session will take place. It is early days, of course, to speak of Prorogation, but it is the intention of the Government, if it be possible, to prorogue this Session in the summer, and the whole of the legislative programme has been constructed upon that basis. We have only got a very limited time, therefore, to carry through what we propose. The noble Earl did not criticise such a course; in fact I rather think he approved of it. The course suggested is that the Session should begin, not in February but in another month, that the King's Speech should be given in November, that the debate on the Address—the eminent function upon which we are now engaged—should take place then; that it should be followed by the Second Reading of the principal Bill and when Parliament reassembles after an adjournment about this time, the Bills will be ready, or some of them, in another place to go before the Committee upstairs.

The House of Commons, as your Lordships know, is at that time of year necessarily occupied by financial business, and the House itself will go on with its financial business, but the Second Readings of the Bills having, if possible, been secured before Christmas, the Committee stages upon them can go on upstairs at the same time as the financial business is going on downstairs in the House of Commons. That appears to us to be a very considerable improvement upon the system which we have hitherto known and we intend, if we can, to carry it out this year. It say—if we can. I do not want your Lordships to think I am pledging the Government, because there is always this perpetual allusion to the breaking of pledges and breaches of faith and so on which I want to avoid. I do not therefore pledge the Government, but I say that is the intention with which we are now entering upon this Session and time reason for what the noble and learned Viscount called the "exiguous" character of the Speech.

There will be time certainly for one big Bill—namely, the Franchise Bill. That Bill will occupy Parliament and there will be ample time to deal with it. I ought to say in reference to that Bill, as the noble Earl asked me about it, that there is no suggestion now of referring any matter connected with the Franchise Bill to any conference. The Government are prepared to undertake all that ought to be done on that head upon their own responsibility. But when you come to consider what time is available I think your Lordships will agree that we must be prepared for all sorts of contingencies. It does not do to abolish the margin with which you ought to work. There may be matters of importance which have to be brought before Parliament and for which time is required, but, most notably, will that be true if the inquiries in respect of rating which the Government are now undertaking bear fruit. We must have time to make the result of those inquiries effective. Therefore it would have been in the highest degree unwise for us, in view of the general observations that I have made, to have loaded up the programme of legislation in such a way that when the inquiries are complete we should no longer have any time in which to carry into effect what I hope they will recommend. For these reasons, with which I hope your Lordships will agree, we think that the programme of business that we have laid before the House and the country is thoroughly justified.

Both the noble Lords asked what has become of the Factories Bill? The observations that I have made give the reason why we are not proceeding with the Factories Bill in the present Session. There would not be time, subject to the conditions which I have ventured to set forth, to deal with it, but please do not think that we have abandoned the Factories Bill. It is only a question of postponing it. We hope that it will be one of the Bills—perhaps I ought to say the principal Bill—which will get a Second Reading before Christmas in the new Session if Parliament is good enough to accept the suggestion of the Government as to the conduct of business. The Factories Bill, although it is not to be dealt with in the present Session, is by no means abandoned even for the present year. I hope that will be sufficient to re-assure the two noble Lords.

There is one other Bill which is foreshadowed which is of great importance. That is the Agricultural Credits Bill. I hope that that will not be a matter of great controversy. It is a very important Bill from the agricultural point of view, but it ought not to give rise, I should think, to much difference of opinion in either House of Parliament. One noble Lord speaking to-night suggested that we should only deal with long-term credit. That is the case. We do not propose to deal with short-term credit. It is long-term credit we propose to deal with, that is to say the credit which a farmer may want in order to become himself the owner of his farm or the credit which an occupying owner may want in order to carry out necessary repairs and improvements. It is that kind of credit which we contemplate, and that credit should be effected through the agency of existing banks. Legislation will be needed for the purpose. That Bill is a contribution at any rate to the relief of agriculture, but if we can do what we hope about rates that will be a much more considerable contribution to the relief of agriculture. In that respect also I hope your Lordships will realise that the Government are fully alive to their responsibilities.

Then the noble Earl asked why have we not done something about coal and something about unemployment. We have not mentioned them in the Speech. That appears to be the complaint. I cannot say that I feel that it is vital that we should mention everything in the Speech. But we have done something about coal and we have done something about unemployment, because your Lordships will remember that at the end of last Session we set on foot a transfer board consisting of three very distinguished civil servants who are entrusted with the duty of transferring surplus labour where it cannot be absorbed, especially in congested coal districts, to other areas where it can find employment.

Lastly I come to the charge that has been levelled against us by both noble Lords that we have left out of the Speech the subject of Lords reform. How the noble and learned Viscount had the assurance to charge us with not dealing with Lords reform I confess astonishes me, because, as your Lordships will remember, he is the most ultra-Tory, in respect of your Lordships' House, who sits here. He does not want any change. He has told us over and over again that provided the House of Lords goes on as it is—weak, unreformed, without adequate powers and gradually losing the powers it has—he will be quite satisfied. But for the obvious purposes of the Leader of the Opposition he criticised us for not having mentioned Lords reform in the Speech. Well, the first reason why we have not mentioned Lords reform I have already alluded to. We want to limit the obligations of the Government in the present Session, which we hope will come to an end in the summer. Your Lordships will remember that the pledge of the Government is to deal with this subject in the lifetime of the present. Parliament. Therefore, as there is no intention of bringing the present Parliament to a close in the present year, there is no charge which can be levelled against us.

But I should not like to go too far. Undoubtedly the reception which some of the proposals which we made last year received in another place has made it necessary to reconsider them. That is quite true, and reconsideration takes a certain amount of time. I will not say for certain that the matter will not be dealt with even in the present Session, although it is clearly not very probable. As soon as the reconsideration of our proposals has been completed we shall know whether we can go on in the present Session or not. At any rate, your Lordships can be quite clear on this point, that we have not in any way committed any breach of faith in the matter. The undertaking was that we would deal with this subject in the present Parliament, and the present Parliament has not come to an end and I hope is not immediately coming to an end. The noble Earl, having watched the course of the by-elections, is also glad it is not coming to an end. On the whole I have no complaint to make against the critics of the Government on the present occasion. Their condemnation has been very good natured and I do not anticipate that in the coming Session, at any rate in your Lordships' House, the Government will have much difficulty in carrying through their legislative programme and in continuing to administer the affairs of the country upon the principles which they profess.


My Lords, I should not have ventured to intervene in this debate had it not been that my attention has been called to the fact, which of course I had noticed also myself, of the omission from the gracious Speech of any mention of the position of this House. As I had the privilege and honour of moving a Resolution last Session dealing with this question it was thought right that I should call attention from these Benches to that omission. I have listened with the greatest possible attention to what has fallen from the noble Marquess on this point. With one notable exception, to which I will allude later, I must say, with all respect to my noble friend, that I think he hardly dealt adequately with the position with regard to this omission. Your Lordships will remember that the Resolution to which I have referred was received with emphatic approval by an enormous majority of this House. While I do not wish to be in any way acrimonious, I cannot help feeling, and I know that many of my friends feel, that after that emphatic approval expressed in this House it was hardly courteous of the Government not to pay more attention to this subject either in the gracious Speech from the Throne or in the speech which has just fallen from the noble Marquess.

I would venture to allude to another point. It is the custom of the Party to which I have the honour to belong to hold an annual conference at the end of every summer or in the early autumn. That conference is not an ordinary Party meeting. Those attending that conference are freely selected from every constituency in the country and they therefore come in a special way representing the opinions of the Party in their constituencies. At this last conference, which was held at Cardiff in the early autumn, a resolution was moved by my noble friend Lord Selborne to this effect:— That this conference calls upon the Government most earnestly to fulfil in 1928 their pledge to amend the Parliament Act, and to reform the House of Lords. That resolution was passed with practical unanimity by this large body of some 2,000 delegates, who were not confined by any means to that locality but were drawn from constituencies all over the country. The reception of that resolution evidently and naturally had some effect upon the Prime Minister, for in the speech that he made the same evening he used these words:— The Government this autumn will consider carefully such criticism, they will consider carefully that most interesting discussion which took place among you to-day and they will announce their decision later in the year. There has been solemn silence, so far as I know, on the part of every member of the Government from that day to this with regard to this question. It is not for me to be impertinent enough to suggest how Party leaders ought to deal with their followers, but I feel bound to say that it does not appear to me to be conducive to good Party feeling and Party loyalty that a resolution passed by representatives from all parts of the country and received at the moment in the way in which this resolution was received by the Prime Minister should have no more attention paid to it than has been paid until this afternoon.

The noble Marquess alluded to the difficulties of the Government with regard to this question, owing to what took place in the House of Commons last Session. I admit those difficulties, but I feel bound to say that they were largely brought about by what I can only call the negligence of the Government. In the first place, the Government adumbrated certain proposals in this House which did not commend themselves to those of us who had been engaged in considering this question. Next, though I am sure it was no fault whatever of the noble Lords belonging to the Government in this House, a most unfortunate accident happened in another place, and the officials of the Government whose duty it is to advise the Government—and I may add that it is the Government's duty to ask and ascertain their opinion—were apparently never consulted as to what the probable results would be of these proposals being brought forward in the House of Commons. Hence the confusion and chaos which arose.

The noble Marquess has told us definitely, as, of course, he must have done if he alluded to the matter at all, that the pledge of the Prime Minister on this subject still holds good. I will venture to read that pledge, which was given to a deputation of members of this House and of another place on July 20, 1926. These are the Prime Minister's words:— All I have to say to you this afternoon is to repeat perfectly definitely a pledge which I believe I have already given, that we shall deal with this question in the lifetime of this present Parliament. The noble Marquess has confirmed that pledge. I hope that it will not be thought for a moment that any criticisms I have ventured to make mean I have the slightest hesitation in believing that the Prime Minister has no idea of departing from that pledge. I know him too well to think anything of the kind, but I do regret the delay which is necessarily caused by no more definite mention being made of this question in the most gracious Speech, and the natural difficulty and want of time which must ensue in adequately dealing with this problem.


My Lords, I ask your Lordships to listen to me for only two or three minutes while I speak on a matter which I have been very much pressed by long-suffering fellow countrymen of my own to bring forward. This question was raised on the very last day when this House met before the Prorogation. Up to that moment a number of people who had express promises from the Government that their cases would be inquired into and that awards would be made were under the impression that those promises would be kept. I say that they had promises because it was found by a tribunal set up by the Government and presided over by Lord Dunedin that certain promises had not been kept. This was a very severe report to make. They also advised that another tribunal should be set up to assess compensation, also under a distinguished lawyer who had acted for the Government and who was of their own selection. I cannot think that I should do justice to a matter upon which I feel so strongly, having had to go into many of these cases, by raising it in the debate upon the Address. I do not think that this is the best way to raise the matter, and I mention it merely to show those who, rightly or wrongly, rely upon me to do my best to get them justice in Ireland, that I have not in the least given up the idea of still pressing the Government. I shall press them with all the power I have, all through the Session, and I shall ask the House seriously to discuss one day after another each of these cases; when that is done I venture to think that any man who is a human being will feel that a case is made out unequalled in any civilised country under a Government which is bound not only by its own pledges but the pledges of those who have gone before them.

But a case of that kind cannot be properly discussed on an occasion like this. Others, I am grateful to say, have interested themselves in this matter. To what extent the public to whom we appealed yesterday in the Press are interesting themselves I cannot at present calculate, but I know it is to a very large extent responding. I shall claim that I may have an early day to put down a Motion, either myself or through one of my friends, to raise this question, and to ask the Government whether they are really going to leave that case unanswered, as it is at present. I, of course, am not in this House for any political reason, nor is this a political matter, nor is it a question involving any charge against the Irish Free State—we have studiously refrained from making any criticism of the Irish Free State. I think your Lordships will say we are entitled to a full and patient hearing on behalf of those who, for the last five or six years, have been struggling on and on, by mean and petty methods of borrowing and living in any kind of way—borrowing on the faith of these awards and finding themselves now in a struggle against the utmost destitution.


My Lords I desire to join in the expression of regret which fell from my noble friend Lord FitzAlan that there is no mention in the gracious Speech of the question of the constitution of this House or of the question, which is interlocked with it, of the amendment of the Parliament Act. It is felt by those of us who think that that constitutional outrage should be put right that we should not propose to do that without at the same time doing something to reform this House. I very much fear that, as we now know definitely that this question is more or less relegated to the last Session of this Parliament, it may have the same fate which the proposal had under the Coalition Government when it was found absolutely impossible to deal with it. Certain Resolutions were then proposed by the Government. They did not go very far; I do not think they were meant to go far. Anyhow we were jockeyed out of our rights in the matter. The Conservative Party at that time had given the other wing of the Coalition very great support for many of their proposals, and the only thing they were to get in return was the reform of this House and the amendment of the Parliament Act, and they did not receive it.

I am very sorry indeed that at the hands of our own Government we should be relegated again to the last Session of a Parliament. I have no doubt that they honestly intend to carry out the pledges of the Prime Minister and of the other members of his Government, but I doubt if they can do so, and I do press my noble friend the Leader of the House, if it be at all possible, to make some attempt at all events to deal with that question of the Parliament Act during this Session. The amendments required are well known to us all—the question of the authority to certify Finance Bills, the question of what a Finance Bill is, so that under the cloak of finance we should not have revolutionary measures, and no doubt also, if it were possible, some provision under which given constitutional questions should either be settled by a referendum or by a General Election after a dispute between the two Houses.

When we are told by the noble Marquess that the Factories Bill is to be the most important Bill of the next Session I feel still more apprehensive of the chances. This is a measure in which I am very interested and always have been, and which, I fear, is rather in jeopardy. I join very sincerely in the regret expressed by Lord FitzAlan that it has not appeared in the Speech from the Throne. It appeared, I think, in every Speech, of the last three Sessions anyhow, of the Coalition Government, and I am sorry that it has been dropped out. It gives the appearance, and will be thought by the Party to give the appearance, of rather serious neglect on the part of the Government in regard to a pledge which they have given.


My Lords, I should like to refer to one point mentioned in the gracious Speech, and that is that the Government have kept their pledge to bring in a Bill dealing with London rating. It is a great hardship at present on manufacturers in London that they are not put upon the same footing as manufacturers outside London. A promise was made by the Minister of Health in another place that this Session a Bill to remedy those grievances should be brought in, and I am delighted to think that the Government are going to take steps to pass it into law. Another matter on which I should also like to thank the Government is that they are going to bring in a Bill for the amendment of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund. I had the honour, though I was out of order at the time, to make some remarks on this subject on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill last Session. This Act is renewable every two years, and every two years we have been promised that the matter would be put upon a proper basis. I am very glad to think that the Government have at last made up their minds to deal comprehensively with the matter, and I am sure London will realise how important it is that these two questions should be dealt with during the present Session.


May I say, with reference to the speeches made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, and other noble Lords, that I quite recognise the moderation of what they have said, and the great importance of it. I will not break your Lordships' rule by making another speech but I should not like those noble Lords to carry away the idea that we do not realise how important their observations are, and what great weight they ought to have with the Government.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente, and Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.