§ Order for Second Reading read.
SIR EDWARD WATKLN (Hythe)
I very much, regret that someone more accustomed to address the House has not taken my place in order to expound what I believe to be a great national question. I can assure the House that I rise to perform the duty I have undertaken with considerable hesitation. This Bill has been postponed from time to time to meet the exigencies of the Business of the House, and also in compliance with the wishes of Her Majesty's Government. I see by The Times of today that those who are promoting tills Bill are accused of having selfish interests. Now, I assert, on the contrary, that those who have been engaged in promoting the tunnel have shown every possible desire to treat this matter patriotically in a national, and not in a money-making, spirit. The board of directors is an honorary board, the secretary is an honorary secretary, the engineers are honorary engineers, and, 1038 strange to say, the solicitors are honorary solicitors also. In addition to that fact, I may mention that my own view, as well as the view of a great many of those who have promoted the Bill, has been that a high road under the sea to connect the Continent of Europe with England ought to be an International work, and ought not to be entrusted to private enterprise. It was only when we found from more than one Government that they were not disposed to make it a national enterprise, but were prepared to assist it as a private undertaking, that exertions were made with a view to raise the capital for experimental works connected with it. I think it may save the time of the House if I were to road a letter from the late President of the Board of Trade, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), in reply to a very earnest appeal from mo that he would advise the Cabinet to allow the work to be conducted jointly by England and France, and not make it a joint-stock enterprise at all. The letter I received in reply is dated on board the Galatea, Barrow, 16th September, 1881—MR DEAR SIR,—Your further letter of 14th instant has been forwarded to me here Until the Cabinet meets again I cannot give you an authoritative answer from the Government as a whole, though I really have no doubt in my own mind as to what that answer will be. But I will at once state the opinion of the Board of Trade on the questions you raise. We do not think that the project is one which should be any exception to the general rule by which, in this country, such enterprises are left in private hands. We shall not, therefore, recommend either that the Government should undertake the work, or that it should give State assistance in any form to the realization of this idea. At the same time, we are anxious that no officialism or red tape should he allowed to prevent, or even to delay, the undertaking, if private individuals are willing to go on with it. We have no preferences, or prejudices in reference to the different schemes which have been suggested. We have to satisfy ourselves—first, that no national interest is endangered by such a work as is proposed; and assuming that tills is satisfactorily established, then we have to consider the conditions which it may be necessary to impose, and to see that the position selected is the most suitable for any requirements which may have to be insisted on. We are also of opinion that the tunnel, if made, cannot be allowed to afford a monopoly of communication to any one Company. The maps and papers sent by you shall be laid before the Committee of Inquiry, who will proceed as quickly as the circumstances will permit.1039 That letter, which is signed by Mr. J. Chamberlain, gives generally the view of the Government of that day; and it is under these circumstances that the work has been carried on as a private enterprize, and is not the work of the Nation. Now, Sir, the last Division which took place on this question was in 1885, when 99 Members of the then House of Commons voted for the second reading of the Bill then brought forward. Since then the two Companies which then existed for making the tunnel have amalgamated, and there is now only one Tunnel Company working and taking an interest in the matter, and they are now in negotiation with the French Tunnel Company, with a view to joint action. Consequently, when Parliament and the Government remove the difficulties in our way there will be no difficulty in carrying out the work. Since then there has been a far more important change than that. We have now got what may be called a Democratic Parliament, and it remains to be seen whether the idea of peace and fraternity between nations permeates the mind of the new democracy and their Representatives, or whether they will consider a policy of isolation and exclusion is the best policy for the British Empire. The present Bill has been considerably altered from the Bill of 1885, and it is now simply a Bill to enable further experiments to be made, not at the cost of the country, but at the cost of individuals. And then it proceeds to provide powers of agreement with reference to the experimental works with the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company in the event of the Lords of the Treasury sanctioning the carrying out of experimental works; it further provides that the works of the Channel Tunnel, when made, may be transferred to the country if required by the Lords of the Treasury. The Bill also contains power to raise an additional sum of money, to amend the existing Act of 1874, and to apply certain clauses of the Railway and Land Clauses Act of 1855 to the present Bill. Consequently, what the Bill amounts to is a request by private individuals, who are incorporated into a Company, to raise some more capital of their own in order to enable them finally to complete the experimental works, and to give the Government of the day—which means the House of Commons—the absolute power 1040 of saying whether, if the experiments are sanctioned and the tunnel made, the works shall be handed over to the Government in the interests of the nation. For my own part, I cannot imagine a more modest proposal than that, although I am aware that our proposals are threatened with opposition by the right hon. Gentleman opposite the Secretary to the Board of Trade. Surely, knowing that the Government have refused to make these experiments in the interests of the country at their own cost, and seeing that while they still refuse to carry out the works they are to be endowed with power to decide the whole of this great and important question, it is too much to ask the House to reject the Bill. What is it that the House is asked to do? In the modest request contained in the Bill all the House is asked to do is to grant the usual inquiry before a Select Committee. That Committee, after hearing evidence and after sifting the evidence by means of cross-examination on the part of counsel, would have to decide whether the main provisions of the Bill are admissible. Should it be found that they are inadmissible the scheme would go no further. All the promoters ask, therefore, is that an inquiry before a Select Committee shall be conceded. I challenge the production of any precedent to show that the House, under similar circumstances, has refused an application of this kind when it has granted the prayer of a Petition and has allowed the Bill to be read a first time. No doubt it is true that we have had four inquiries already. We had an inquiry on the part of the Board of Trade, the Admiralty, and the War Office, which was of a preliminary character. I am speaking now of the more recent history of this great question. We have had, also, a military inquiry; we have had, in addition, an inquiry which I think was partly military and partly not; and, finally, we had an inquiry before a Committee of nine, of which you, Sir, were a a member. That Committee failed to agree upon a Report; but having had those four inquiries, I should like to point out to the House that the House itself, by the mode in which the question has been dealt with, has been prevented from having an inquiry under its own direction and by its own methods. These inquiries have been rather Commissions than Committees, and one essential con- 1041 dition of thoroughly sifting the evidence laid before the tribunals which have already made an investigation has been wanting—namely, the presence of counsel who could cross-examine the witnesses. If we could have had counsel to cross-examine the witnesses, will anybody tell me that it would have remained on record that so great an authority as Lord Wolseley would have laid it down at this time of day, without contradiction, that an invading army might reach the door of Dover Castle, find the sentry asleep with his gun unloaded, and be able to take Dover Castle by a ridiculous coup de main? On the other hand, it remains on record that the illustrious Duke the Commander-in-Chief has said that if this tunnel were made it would be necessary to make Dover Castle a first-class fortress at a cost of £3,000,000, and that in addition to that it would also be essential to make use of what he is in the habit of calling "the conscription," and to arm, as it were, every man in the nation. Now, we want to get hold of these fallacies, and the only way to get hold of them is by appointing a Committee of this House to conduct an inquiry where there will be counsel employed to sift the evidence of the witnesses. In that case we pledge ourselves to disabuse the mind of the country as to the outrageous fallacies which have been put into the mind of the nation. No doubt it is technically the fact that this Tunnel Bill is a Private Bill, but it is one which raises, I admit, and I am glad to admit, the gravest and most important issues—issues affecting the whole commerce and industry of the country. The tunnel affects that great commercial intercommunication on which the commercial life of the country depends. While Europe is becoming more and more one country only by the piercing of mountains, the bridging over of rivers, and the breaking down of old - fashioned ideas of exclusion; while the most magnificent ports are being constructed by foreign countries, while that is the case in regard to the Continent of Europe, we, in England, on the other hand, are becoming more and more isolated. The House will remember that one-third of the food consumed, and nearly the whole of the textile materials used in our manufactures, with the exception of a little flax from Ireland, and some homo grown wool, we 1042 are dependent entirely upon the sea. If for a week or a fortnight we were to lose command of the sea, we should have to capitulate, perhaps, to some minor power. In such a contingency we should have no second line of supply, and those who advocate the making of this tunnel desire to provide that second line of supply and communication. Indeed, we say that the very safety of our trade is every day becoming more and more dependent upon such a second line of supply. I know it may be said that one single tunnel will not do the whole work of Europe; but the geological conditions under which the Channel Tunnel can be made are such that if required we can make as many tunnels, side by side, as are wanted. The formation through which the tunnel will be made is that wonderful material which in England is called the old grey chalk, consisting of about one-third clay and two-thirds chalk, and forming a sort of natural puddle. This seam is 300 feet thick. I sent up a piece of it for the inspection of the House; I do not know what became of it, but I may say that after having been filled with water for a fortnight not a single drop had exuded from it. I do not wish to say anything that the most captious might construe into irreverence; but I may say that the late Archbishop of Canterbury, after I had explained the geological facts to him, said he believed that Providence had placed that wonderful material between the coasts of England and France with a view to ultimate intercommunication. Then, again, the Bill affects another matter, which will receive, I hope, the serious attention of the House. It affects the relations between this country and Franco, and also between this country and Europe. If the House will favour me with its attention for a moment or two, and I propose to be as short as I can, I will show how Governments of both Parties have sanctioned the principle of a tunnel, and have done everything they could in past times to support it. I shall have to ask the hon. Member opposite (Baron Henry De Worms), when he rises to reply to me, and to move the rejection of the Bill, to explain what is the reason of the change of opinion which has been brought about, so far as the Conservative Party are concerned? Among the supporters of the Bill have been such 1043 distinguished Members of the Conservative Party as the late Lord Derby, Mr. Disraeli, the present Lord Derby, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I shall quote from official letters showing the views they distinctly entertained only a few years ago, and I shall show also that the Channel Tunnel scheme has been supported by the late Prince Consort, Lord Granville, Lord Clarendon, Mr. Cobden, and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). At present the French Tunnel Company have pierced an experimental gallery one and a-quarter miles long under the sea on the French side, and the English Channel Company have done the same on the English side. The English Tunnel Company holds and possesses three miles of a coast-line between Shakspeare Cliff and Dover. They are not only the lords of the soil, but they have purchased the manorial and other rights, which have been held in undisputed possession ever since the inquiry as to the lands of the great church of Canterbury and other ecclesiastical bodies in the reign of Elizabeth. What is being done, therefore, is done upon their own property—their own freehold—and within their actual rights. It is quite true that in past days with a view, as we thought, of inducing them to go with us, we communicated to the Board of Trade, and the Government generally, every step that we took, and we obeyed their injunctions whether reasonable or unreasonable. That is the present position of the matter. One objection which has often been raised against the tunnel has reference to the question of ventilation. I may say that experiments have been made upon that matter; an engine has been invented and constructed which is worked by compressed air, and as far as the experiment has gone it has worked admirably. No doubt it is more costly than steam produced by the combustion of coal; but we believe that it will ventilate the tunnel and propel the train conveying goods and passengers without smoke or nuisance of any kind. This tunnel owes its origination very largely to the suggestions which wore made by a distinguished Frenchman, M. Thomé de Gomond, and on this side of the Channel to Mr. Low, Mr. Brunlees, and Sir John Hawkshaw, and since then by Sir Frederick Bram well and Mr. Brady, 1044 who are the consulting engineers, and who have continued the operations. M. Thomé de Gomond, at the time of the French Exhibition, mentioned an interview which took place between himself and his colleagues with the late Prince Consort, and if I did not desire to shorten my remarks I would venture to read his account of what took place. It proves unmistakably that Prince Albert was a warm advocate of the tunnel, on the ground that it would prevent the isolation of which I have spoken. M. Thomé de Gomond goes on to say that Mr. Cobden, whose Treaty with France has done so much to preserve peace between that country and England, described the tunnel as the true link of union between England and France. I only propose to read a few words from the voluminous Correspondence to which those proposals led, in order to show the grounds upon which I found the remarks I shall have to make. Here is an extract from a Despatch of Lord Granville to Lord Lyons in Paris, in which he says—It now remains for me to request your Excellency to make known to the French Government the present application from the Tunnel Company to Her Majesty's Government, to communicate to them the foregoing observations with respect to the undertaking in question, and to state that, subject to those observations which Her Majesty's Government have considered it their duty to make, they see no objection, in principle, to the proposed tunnel between France and England.That is one of the main points. The next letter is a very important one, and I ask the kind attention of the House to it, and to the postscript which accompanies it. It is a letter signed "T. H. Fairer," and is dated from Whitehall Gardens, July 15, 1873. It is as follows:—With reference to your letter of the 28th June, 1872, relative to the proposed Channel Tunnel scheme, I am directed by the Board of Trade to request that you will state to Earl Granville that, subject to the observations contained in my letter of the 23rd December, 1871, they would gladly see any improvement in the communication between this country and the Continent, and they would, therefore, be well satisfied to hear that the British railway system was likely to be connected with the European railway system by means of a tunnel between France and England. They presume that, while firmly opposed to any monopoly, Her Majesty's Government would not be inclined to offer objections to a concession being granted to the promoters of the Channel Tunnel Company upon the usual terms granted to a public Company in France, 1045 provided that either by fixing reasonable limits as to time, or reasonable conditions as to purchase of the undertaking by the respective Governments, or in any other way, the concession were prevented from operating hereafter as a monopoly injurious to the public. Should any such concession be contemplated, it would, no doubt, be submitted to Her Majesty's Government, who are, no less than the Government of France, interested in its details.There was a remarkable note appended to this document by the late Lord Frederick Cavendish, It was to this effect—The draft letter mentioned above was in exact accordance with Mr. Gladstone's wishes.The next letter from which I propose to read a passage is one from Lord Granville, in July, 1873, to the British Ambassador at Paris (Lord Lyons), in which Lord Granville says—I have to state to your Lordship that Her Majesty's Government adopt the views of the Board of Trade, and your Lordship may consider them as now communicated to you for your guidance in any representation which may be made to you on the subject.There is another letter, which is perhaps more important still, from its official character—a letter from the present Lord Derby, in December, 1874, to Comte de Jarnac, who was at that time the French Ambassador to this country, which states—Of the utility of the work in question, if successfully carried out, there appears to be no reason for any doubt, and Her Majesty's Government would therefore offer no opposition to it, provided they are not asked for any gift or loan, or guarantee in connection therewith.It then goes on to say—Her Majesty's Government have no objection to offer to the proposed grant to the promoters of a monopoly for 30 years after the final completion of and opening of the tunnel, nor to the concession itself extending to a period of 99 years from the same date, the question being reserved of some limitation being imposed as to the date of the final completion.As far as the correspondence went up to this point, everything appears to have been satisfactory. Her Majesty's Government, in the next place, appointed an able Member of this House—Sir Henry Tyler, who was then of the Board of Trade; Mr. Horace Watson, Solicitor to the Department of Woods and Forests; and Mr. C. M. Kennedy, of the Foreign Office—to negotiate a Convention with Commissioners appointed by the French Government, and the negotiations extended over many months. In May, 1876, two of the Chan- 1046 nel Tunnel Commissioners—Sir Henry Tyler and Mr. Kennedy—sent the following letter to the Secretary to the Treasury:—Foreign Office, May 31, 1876.SIR,—We have the honour to transmit herewith a Report, signed by ourselves and the French Commissioners, enclosing a Memorandum which the Joint Commission recommends should be adopted as the basis of the proposed Treaty between Great Britain and France with regard to the Channel Tunnel and Railway; and we should be obliged by your submitting the same to the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury.—We have, &c,(Signed)H. W. TYLER AND C. M. KEKNEDY.From the Report and draft convention which accompanied this letter, it will be found that the question, not only how the tunnel was to be dealt with in a time of peace, but how it was to be dealt with in a time of war, was most carefully and laboriously considered; and I find further letters from Members of the Government, thanking Captain Tyler, as he was then, and the other Members of the Commission, for the great services they had rendered. This may be called the past or ancient history of the question. The objections which have been raised in regard to the tunnel have been almost entirely military objections, although I believe there is one gentleman who has given testimony against the project, and has supplied the hon. Baronet opposite today with information, who is a civilian, and he may have therefore given strong military reasons against it. Apart from that, all the objections which have entered at all into the mind of the public have been military objections. It has been said that Members of both political Parties composing different Governments may have sanctioned the principle and agreed to the details of the project; but that there was no military inquiry into the matter. Now, Sir, with very great trouble and difficulty, I moved for and obtained a Return of a Memorandum, which may be called a missing link in this story. It is a copy of a Memorundum which was submitted to the Surveyor General of the Ordnance by Sir W. Drummond Jervois, Deputy Director of Works, on March 3, 1875, Sir F. Chapman being at the time Inspector General of Fortifications. That document was presented to the House in a Return from the War Office, dated 1047 August 9, 1883. The Memorandum says—There appears to be no objection to the proposed tunnel provided due precautions are adopted. Should this country, in alliance with France, be at war with another Continental Power, the existence of the tunnel might be advantageous. Should this country be at war with France, the proposed tunnel could, no doubt, be readily closed. Having regard, however, to the possibility of the tunnel being unnecessarily injured under the influence of panic, and to the probable cost of repairing such injury, it is desirable to obviate, as far as possible, the necessity for adopting extreme measures, and with this object to pay due regard to defensive considerations in the construction of the tunnel. Moreover, unless proper military precautions be taken, it might, under some circumstances, happen that France might be able, in anticipation of a declaration of war, to send a body of troops through the tunnel, and to thus obtain an important military advantage. Such a body of troops could readily entrench themselves, and could be rapidly reinforced. If, however, suitable defensive arrangements are made, such an undertaking would be impracticable, and even in case of war being imminent, no fears need be entertained which might lead to the partial destruction of this costly work.Now, Sir, will anybody tell me that the important official Memorandum which those distinguished officers were required to prepare on the subject was not submitted to the War Office, and placed under the eyes of the Commander-in-Chief? It is impossible to conceive otherwise, and I am told, as a matter of fact, that it was. Therefore, before 1883, it is clear that the War Office were perfectly alive to what these two distinguished officers had reported, and it was to be supposed that they agreed with the Report which was made. In dealing with military men it is sometimes assumed that the soldiers of this country are unanimous on this question. Why, Sir, it is nothing of the kind. I know of many distinguished soldiers who, if they dared, would speak as to the ridiculous character of the objections put forward on the matter by our two most eminent military men—the Commander-in-Chief and Lord Wolseley. I am going to quote a very few words from the opinion of Sir John Adye, a distinguished military man, who has, perhaps, seen more service than any other half-a-dozen Generals you could put together. And this is what Sir John Adye says. I am sorry to weary the House with extracts, but the question is so important that I am sure the House will give me its indulgence. Sir John Adye says— 1048The tunnel may be a foolish venture. It may never be completed, it may, even if completed, be financially a failure; it may not realize any of the objects intended. On all these points I do not care to give an opinion, but as to its dangers in a military sense, and with the most ordinary precautions, I am unable to perceive them. The invention of steam as a motive power for ships, and the creation of large harbours on the French coast, are more serious matters for us in a military point of view than any amount of tunnels are likely to be. But I must go farther. Even supposing that a certain amount of danger were caused to this country by the construction of a submarine tunnel from France, I do not think that circumstance in itself would be a sufficient argument against its construction. The advantages of increased means of intercourse between the two countries, and the facilities for commerce, &c, may be so great as to overbalance the possible disadvantages; and, in that case, it would be our business to take such military precautions as would, whilst leaving it free in peace, enable us to provide against the possible dangers of a state of war. It surely is not a sound argument that, because a certain course may lead to a possible danger in war, we are, therefore, peremptorily to put a veto on it, and thus to deprive ourselves of the advantages which would accrue in peace. Bear in mind I give no opinion as to the tunnel itself—that is, whether it is likely to be completed, or to be a success, or whether its construction will pay commercially. I am assuming that these points have been considered and determined affirmatively, and if so, our duty then will be to take such military precautions as will prevent its use adversely to our interests in war. On this point I would observe that the tunnels under the Alps are being made apparently with the same general view as the submarine tunnel under the Channel, namely, for improvement of intercourse and facilities of commerce; and in their case the dangers would appear to be far more real than any which can be ascribed to the Channel Tunnel. But the nations at each end, no doubt, feel confident that they can prevent their adverse use in war. And, again, I would point out that all the great Continental Powers of Europe are united, as it were, by a network of railways, roads, and river communications, all of which afford ready means for invasion in case of war—dangers far and away greater than any we can incur by one long tunnel from one country necessarily terminating at a fixed point or exit in the other. The Continental Powers, however, do not dream of interdicting or blocking these international highways in peace time, because they feel, and rightly so, that the remedy would be far worse than the disease. To destroy or to prevent the means of external communication would, in fact, be intolerable. Consequently, whilst alive to the possible dangers, they confine themselves to minimizing them in time of war by obvious military precautions. This is exactly what we shall have to do when the tunnel is completed, but the precautions lo be taken by us are fortunately of a very simple character as compared to those entailed on the Continental Powers.Let me quote another letter from Sir Andrew Clarke, a distinguished man, 1049 who has served his country in various parts of the world—Of course, in its effect upon the commerce of the two countries, as I have hinted, in case of war with Germany or Russia, or, say, with the United States, the tunnel would be a great source of security. With France as a friendly ally, or even taking up a neutral position, our goods would go under the ocean to France, and the Continent generally, and we should be under no anxiety as to the cruisers of the enemy seizing them. With Germany rapidly acquiring a foremost place as a naval power, this is a matter to which some significance should be attached. I will, however, pass to the consideration of the actual facility for attack which it is said the tunnel would afford. On this point I would say that I think the importance of the protection which 'the silver streak' gives has itself been somewhat magnified at the expense of the tunnel scheme. Assuming that a Commander-in-Chief on the French side were charged with the responsibility of conducting operations, and had full control given to him so that he could effect his object in the best possible way, it is extremely probable that, rather than make use of the tunnel, he would fall back upon steam transports, so as to make his crossing and attempt at a landing. Difficult as the task under any circumstances would be, he would by such means at least have the advantage of knowing to a certainty how he could land the various forces at his disposal; and then, in the presence of an enemy, he would be better able to judge of how he should distribute his troops. But it is said that what we have to guard against is a surprise. It is theoretically suggested that a number of troops, some 2,000, might be got through the tunnel and secure the entrance on this side. Such a surprise, however, would be a simple impossibility. Are these troops to come without arms and without uniforms, so that their passage and arrival may not be suspected? The sudden movement of such a body could not elude suspicion, for we cannot suppose that all this movement could go on without the railway subordinates, the military, or the public getting some hint of it. And even if the suppositious 2,000 men could be secretly convoyed, it is not to be forgotten that their passage would have to be preceded by the massing of an immense force of troops on the other side, which force, it is supposed, might be brought over after the tunnel was secured. Such a massing of troops would, of course, not be the matter of an hour, and is would, if anything, be as difficult to keep secret at the passage of the 2,000. Granting that the tunnel was seized and the 2,000 troops were for a time unmolested, the difficulty of passing the main body with the necessary horses and material through the narrow tunnel with sufficient despatch would be simply insuperable, and it is hardly to be doubted that, with all allowances made for the advantage of a surprise, a force which could only issue from the end of a caterpillar-like structure in driblets would soon find itself disseminated. In a general way, however, and apart from this, I am not inclined to attach much importance to the value of railways for the advance of an army in force, and still less should I do so when that railway was worked in a tunnel. However such railways may be auxiliary to the move- 1050 ment of troops, I am not aware of any instance in which they have served to advance an entire army, and nothing could have shown the difficulty in this respect better than the modern continental wars have done. Indeed, no one who witnessed what was experienced when we ourselves sent a comparative handful of troops into Afghanistan could fail to appreciate the difficulties which are to be met with when dependence has to be placed on communication by railway alone. Not, however, further to argue the points involved in the mere movement of troops through a tunnel such as that which it is proposed to construct, it would be absurd to suppose that the art of the military engineer is so exhausted that the tunnel itself could not be secured.The words which follow are excessively important, and are as much the words of a statesman as of a soldier. Sir Andrew Clarke goes on to say—On all grounds, therefore, I think that the objections against the tunnel being made are not capable of being sustained, and this only I will add—if the industrial and social progress of our country, and the larger interests of humanity can be promoted by a work of this kind, it is not the rôle of the soldier to check the aspirations of his countrymen. Nay, rather, ignoring the imputations that may be made as to the promoters and capitalists being guilty of merely ignoble and sordid motives, let him exercise his service and his art for the removal and not the creation of obstacles to enterprise.Let me state a fact which is, I believe, very well known both at the Board of Trade and the War Office in regard to an eminent strategist—Count von Moltke. Count von Moltke has deliberately said that it would be about as possible to invade England through the Channel Tunnel as it would be to invade England through his library door. I think that the opinion of Count von Moltke is worth considering. We have had scares in this country before. I remember when the Manchester and Liverpool Railway was projected it was said that the French might land at Liverpool and sack Manchester, and the Duke of Wellington expressed doubts whether it was desirable to make a railway at Southampton, because, in the event of invasion, it would render access to London more easy than it would otherwise be to an enemy. Then there is the case of the great Exhibition of 1851. Hon. Members will remember the absurd fears entertained in regard to the Exhibition which are so graphically described in Sir Theodore Martin's Life of the late Prince Consort, from which I will only read a single quotation. Writing to Baron Stockmar on the subject, the Prince Consort said— 1051The Exhibition is now attacked furiously by The Times, and House of Commons is going to drive us out of the Park. There is immense excitement on the subject. If we are driven out of the park the work is done for.And, again—The opponents of the Exhibition work with might and main to throw all the old women hero into a panic, and to drive myself crazy. The strangers, they give out, are certain to commence a thorough revolution here, to murder Victoria and myself, and to proclaim the red republic in England: the plague is certain to ensue from the confluence of such vast multitudes, and to swallow up those whom the increased price of everything has not already swept away. For all this I am to be responsible, and against all this I have to make efficient provision.I think that statement is quite as absurd as anything the military gentlemen may have got up. There is, however, a remarkable passage in the Report of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1862. They say, referring to 1851—Public opinion, in its surly moods, accused the Exhibition promoters of giving up their country into the hands of invited savages. The memorable May-day of 1851 was looked forward to with dread by many honest people, who regarded it as the turning point in England's fate. They expected that London would be ravaged at will, and planted with many varieties of new diseases. The tomahawk was looked for in Hyde Park—the stilletto in Cheapside, and dirt, strange costumes and stranger manners everywhere. Unmanageable crowds were pictured assembling in the chief thoroughfares to make the Exhibition a stalking horse for riot and plunder. Wild fears produced over-caution in the laying out of plans, and the police and army were concentrated as if for an internal war.These are the words of the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1862 about giving up the country into the hands of an invading army in the event of actual war. And it is a Report not from enthusiastic people, but a deliberate Report made by the Commissioners of 1862, many of whom were Members of this House; and that was the state of things apprehended at that time. I have very little more with which to trouble the House, but I must say that a great deal more is made than ought to be made of what is called "The silver streak." How was it that this House at the behest of Lord Palmerston voted £40,000,000 for fortifications? What was the reason of it? It was because Lord Palmerston contended that the introduction of steam, accompanied by the increased means of transport which it gave, had deprived us of the great advantage—if it was an advantage 1052 —of our insular position. However, what we propose to do is not to abolish or to interfere with "The silver streak" at all, but rather to create a golden band of peace between two great nations by promoting this larger intercourse between them which will be brought about by increased means of intercommunication, which will tend not only to produce a large trade, but those ideas of security and peace which must frequently be wanting between the nations of the Continent. I do not know whore all the opposition comes from. We see what the military opposition is, and we see what opinion a soldier of soldiers entertains. Is it possible that there may be some idea that by bringing about a closer relationship and a state of greater friendship and cordiality between England and France, we may displease Prince Bismarck and Germany? On one occasion I took a distinguished German to see the works, and when he came back he said—I see the works can be done. They can be done easily; they can be done cheaply and rapidly but when they are completed England and France must become more and more one country,I said, "That is really what we want," and the reply was—That may be very benevolent, but I do not think it would be good for Germany.I hope there is no German idea at the bottom of this opposition, and that that is not the state of things we shall have to deal with. As we have now, to some extent a working men's Parliament, I should like to quote a working man's opinion. This is the opinion of Mr. Battersby, a man well known to many of the working men Members of this House, who belonged at the time it was expressed to the Scottish Typographical Association. Mr. Battersby said, in reply to a request to join an influential deputation of representatives of the working classes of the country upon a question relating to labour, in allusion to the proposed Channel Tunnel—I am in receipt of yours of 30th, and regret to say that it would be highly injudicious for me to attempt a journey to Paris next month, for travelling knocks me up. I would like to have seen some of our French friends, and been able to express to them my entire concurrence in the great engineering scheme by which our respective countries are to be connected and made closer to one another.[A laugh.] Probably hon. Gentlemen 1053 will not laugh if they will allow me to continue—The opposition to it may triumph for a time, but I am quite sanguine the work will be completed yet. I have never attached much importance to the opinions of military men upon the means which are best adapted for drawing nations together, or to spread the arts and studies of peace. They have all been despotic and tyrannical, and are likely to remain so. We want more liberty, light, and peace, among the nations of Europe; and less war and national jealousy among them. If wars depended upon the voices of the people in France, England, Germany, &c., they would be like angel's visits—few and far between. Express to our French friends my warmest approval of the projected Tunnel, and the success of every movement by which the prosperity of both nations may be increased.Some time ago a deputation of the working men of this country waited upon President Grévy. President Grévy is a man of great thoughtfulness and great foresight. He was then, as now, President of the French Republic, and in reply to an address presented to him by these English working men he said—He regarded the Tunnel as a magnificent enterprise, and one involving the happiest effects. It was not therefore on that side of the Channel that any objection would be raised. France did not anticipate or fear an invasion. But it was not for him to judge the preoccupations of eminent Englishmen. It was in England that the opposition existed. They had addressed themselves to the French workmen, who were certainly in harmony with them, but what influence could they exercise over public opinion in England. It was for Englishmen to reflect and decide. If England thought isolation and separation the best for her, she was the best judge. This was the only reply he could give so far as the Tunnel was concerned. No objections would be raised against it in France, It was purely an English question.Now, I want to know whether anybody on the other side of the House—whether the Leader of the Government or any other important public Minister in dealing with France is in favour of a policy of isolation and separation? There can be no doubt that any man of business; anybody connected with shipping; anybody who knows anything about business, who will take the trouble to read the excellent paper prepared by Colonel Hozier, the Secretary of Lloyds, will see how greatly our trade is being drawn away from us to ports and places on the Continent because we will not carry out the great works that are necessary for unbroken communication. It will be found that the means of landing and transport in our great ports are greatly excelled in almost every nation of Europe. Take 1054 the case of Antwerp. That port is becoming rapidly what it was 200 or 300 years ago before it was destroyed by the Spaniards. It is now the great port of the North of Europe, and a very large business is now being done at Antwerp in connection with our Colonies, because they can get accommodation there which they cannot got in England. Moreover, they get through rates to every part of Europe in the same waggon or carriage—a thing which they find it impossible to get in England. In a very few years the shipping of Antwerp had increased from 2,300,000 tons to 3,300,000 tons annually. These figures prove my contention that we are getting from day to day more isolated, while Europe, on the contrary, is becoming more united. I have very few more words to say, and I think the quotation I am about to make will be far bettor than anything I can say. It is contained in the concluding words of a. Report prepared by yourself, Sir, the present Governor General of Canada, Lord Lansdowne, by Lord Aberdare, and by the Right Hon. W. E. Baxter, formerly a distinguished Member of this House, who represented Dundee. That report says—We have now, however, imperfectly, reviewed the chief arguments to which we have had the advantage of listening in regard to the military aspects of this question. We have, in the earlier part of our Report, expressed our conviction that the commercial advantages likely to result from the opening of a Tunnel under the Channel are likely to be very considerable, and may probably far exceed the most sanguine expectations formed with regard to them. We are of opinion that a great industrial enterprise, offering a prospect so encouraging, should not be arrested except for conclusive reasons. We have given our reasons for believing that in the case of this enterprise the reasons urged for arresting it are not conclusive. In order to show sufficient cause for interference on the part of the State under such circumstances, it is, in our opinion, not enough to prove that circumstances can be conceived under which the existence of a Channel Tunnel might involve a more or less remote risk to the country, or that it is impracticable to devise precautions upon which absolute reliance might be placed 'in every imaginable contingency.' This is, however, all that has been done in the present instance by the opponents of the Tunnel project. They have, with much ingenuity, assumed the presence of every condition favourable to the view which they entertain, and the absence of every condition unfavourable to it, but they have not been able to show that there is the slightest prospect of a simultaneous presence of the whole of those favourable conditions, and unless this be assumed the whole argument founded upon them falls to the ground.1055Holding those opinions, we have no course open to us except to recommend that this enterprise should net be prohibited on merely political grounds, and that it be allowed to proceed, subject to the ordinary Parliamentary examination by Committees.I have now nothing further to do than to thank the House for the generous attention it has given to one of the humblest of its Members, whose only justification is that he does not often trouble the House. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, '' That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Sir Edward Watkin.)
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE BOARD OF TRADE (Baron HENRY DE WORMS) (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
I think that in view of the arrangement which was arrived at last night between the Loader of the House and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, I should not he acting in accordance with that agreement if I were to intervene at any great length on this question, and so prevent the discussion of what is considered to be a far more important question—namely, the Irish Land Law Bill. I should have been loth to arrive at this decision if the hon. Baronet had advanced any real, new, cogent, or important argument which necessitated a long reply. If I may be allowed to say so, in the history of the Channel Tunnel Scheme which the hon. Baronet has given to the House, he seems to have forgotten that since the letter which he quoted, and which expressed undoubtedly the individual opinion of a man who is eminent as a statesman, a Committee of this House and of the House of Lords has dealt with the matter at very great length, and has carefully inquired into the whole question of the Channel Tunnel. And here, Sir, I must be allowed to say, and I say it with all respect to the hon. Baronet, that I do not think that the pamphlet from which he has quoted, and which has been widely circulated among Members of this House, very accurately, or, perhaps, very fairly, represents the views adopted by the Committee of 1884. The pamphlet gives the expression of the opinion of the Chairman of that Committee. As a matter of fact, it was a minority Report which 1056 was never received and never adopted. The fact that five other Reports were made and not adopted has been scrupulously concealed from the knowledge of the public. The hon. Baronet has relied to a great extent upon what has been printed in that Report; but if he wanted to give the House a strictly accurate and fair Report, he ought to have referred to the views expressed by other Members of the Committee in the proportion of six to four. The hon. Baronet has informed us that this scheme is purely a national and philanthropic one, having for its sole aim the development of more cordial feelings between France and England; that it is of a benevolent and charitable nature; that there is nothing Utopian in it, and that it is not in the slightest degree connected with profit and gain. This may be very interesting news to the House of Commons; but there may be some hon. Members who, like myself, do net consider that the promoters of the scheme are so thoroughly disinterested and have no eye to gain. The hon. Baronet has told us that the object of the scheme is to do away with the isolation of England. Now, I must say that I never in my life heard a more astounding proposition. The isolation of England is to be prevented—how? By uniting England with a Foreign Power! I have always understood that the insularity of England is England's strength, and in that sense isolation and insularity are synonymous. The hon. Member, however, thinks that in order to strengthen this country it is necessary to unite it to Franco, and he asks the House of Commons to give that power to a Joint Stock Company, with a limited liability, forgetting that the Government which is to give it has unlimited liability. I do not think that if the hon. Gentleman had weighed his words he would have used them, or that he would have considered them in any way a cogent argument in support of the scheme he proposes. But the hon. Gentleman tells us that this is a purely experimental scheme; but, so far as the experiment has gone, it has proved to be very successful from an experimental and engineering point of view. What, then, does the hon. Gentleman want? He wants the sanction of the Government to the continuance of the scheme, and not to the experimental scheme,
§ SIR. EDWARD WATKIN
No; I confine it to that. As I have stated already, the whole of the tunnel question in future is to be left in the hands of the Government of the day—winch means Parliament.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
The experimental scheme has been tried by the House, and by a majority of 281 to 99 the House declared that it would have none of it. I am, therefore, at a loss to understand why, in face of a scheme purely experimental, we should recommence operations of which the House has expressed a decided condemnation. The lion. Baronet told us that it was absurd to be guided by the opinion of military authorities, and in the same breath he quoted the opinion of a working man, who thinks it is entirely to the advantage of this country that the tunnel should be made, and that it would not be fraught with any military danger whatever. Then he went on to say that opinions had been expressed by the late Lord Derby and other illustrious statesmen in favour of the scheme. I will not trespass upon the patience of the House by reading the opinions of an enormous number of eminent men who are opposed to the scheme. I may, however, inform the House that there is scarcely an organ of public opinion, from one end of the land to the other, which has not expressed an adverse opinion on the proposal. Of course, that goes for nothing at all in the view of the hon. Baronet, who maintains that the isolated state of Great Britain necessitates its connection with Franca by means of a Channel Tunnel. The hon. Gentleman ridicules the ideas expressed by eminent military authorities like Lord Wolseley and others. Although I should be willing to adopt the practical views of the hon. Baronet on all questions of railway policy or joint stock enterprize, I confess that I much prefer the opinions of Lord Wolseley and those who think with him on military matters. Lord Wolseley has distinctly stated—and he has not been contradicted—that if this tunnel is constructed we should increase, to a great extent, not only the danger to this country, but should involve it in the enormous expense that would be necessary to maintain a large Standing Army. I ask the hon. Baronet whether he does not agree that the security of this country 1058 is mainly due to the fact that we have not a military frontier? But by this scheme we are going to create an artificial frontier. The reason why the countries on the Continent maintain large Standing Armies is simply and solely because they have a large military frontier to defend. Are hon. Members opposite, who are continually preaching economy, going to create an artificial frontier, to protect which the country will have to pay heavily, or, failing to do so, they would not do their duty to the country? The hon. Baronet has also said, more than once, that surprise from an enemy is an absurdity. [Cries of "Hear, hear !"] Other hon. Members, in addition to the hon. Baronet, seem also to say so. The hon. Baronet gave as a reason that wars are always proclaimed, and that people are perfectly aware of what is going to take place. But I would remind the hon. Baronet that history proves that such is not the case, and an incident which was only reported yesterday shows the facilities whith which a strategical surprise may be effected. It was related in the House that our own Fleet had been sent round the coast with the avowed object of taking one of our ports. The ports were warned of that fact, and of the approach of the Fleet, and yet we have received the news that in broad daylight Falmouth has been taken. I, therefore, ask the hon. Gentleman to apply that argument to the Channel Tunnel, and to say whether, in the event of war between France and this country, we might not find ourselves exposed to attack and surprise similar to that which I have just mentioned. One word more. Let me remind the hon. Gentleman that it is not a question of two nations being at war. There is an intermediate condition besides that of actual war. Within the present Reign the relations between France and England have been most strained, and dangerously so. I ask the hon. Baronet to carry his mind back to the periods of 1844 and 1846, when the relations of the Government of Louis Philippe and those of the Government of the Queen were critical. To come to a later period, does the hon. Member recollect the incident of the French Colonels, in 1858? That incident was a threat of invasion which necessitated the creation of the Volunteer Force.
§ BARON HENRY DE WORMS
If a similar scare occurred at the present day I would ask the hon. Baronet to consider whether it would not be necessary to destroy all these wonderful tunnel works which are to prove a boon to the country and to humanity, which are to unite the two countries, which are to do so much commercially for us, and which at any time it might be necessary to destroy. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I do not think, it necessary, nor do I think it right, that I should take up the time of the House. I can see nothing in the question that requires investigation at the hands of a Select Committee; and I will, therefore, conclude by moving the rejection of the Bill.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Baron Henry De Worms.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of deprecating, if possible, any continuation of this discussion. Hon. Members are aware of the important Business to be transacted before 6 o'clock. The Business can be done in four and a-half hours; but if the discussion continues I cannot say what may happen. I therefore ask those who support, the Bill and those who are opposed to it to take the Division at once. I make this request with a freer mind, because I am a decided partizan of the undertaking. The speech to which we have just listened—the very clever speech of the Secretary to the Board of Trade—perhaps a more clover than judicious speech was—to my mind, rather a mixture of what I may call, without disrespect, "bogeyism and fogeyism." The hon. Baronet made an admirable speech in moving the second reading of the Bill; we have had a reply from the Representative of the Government, and I think we may now proceed to a Division.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I wish to add my appeal to the House to follow the advice which 1060 has been given by the Chairman of Committees. I am exceedingly sorry to stand between the House and the hon. Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who appears to be desirous of speaking upon the question, or of any other hon. Gentleman, whether he may sit on this side of the House or the other; but I fully recognize the force of the appeal which has been made by the Chairman of Committees, and I think it is patent to every hon. Member that it is desirable we should come to an immediate decision upon the Bill, as to the nature of which we are fully informed.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I would venture cordially to support the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I am very sorry to stand in the way of my hon. Friend behind me (Sir Wilfrid Lawson); but everyone must agree that the Irish Land Bill is of far more immediate and pressing importance than any issue that can be raised in a Private Bill, and therefore I hope the House will accept the advice which has been given to it.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
I must protest, with all my power, against the doctrine which has been laid down by the three right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have just spoken. Is it to be expected that the House of Commons is never to discuss any English question at all, but that its whole time is to be devoted to Irish matters? That is evidently what is meant. Do hon. and right hon. Gentlemen suppose that the Irish Land Bill can be discussed and finished before 6 o'clock? My experience of Irish debates is very different from that of right hon. Gentlemen if they suppose that the Committee on the Land Bill can be finished before 6 o'clock. This question of the Channel Tunnel involves a much greater question than hon. Gentlemen seem to think. It is not only a British question, but an international question—a question relating to the peace and goodwill of nations; and I maintain, therefore, that it ought to be followed up and freely discussed in this House. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade, who spoke a short time ago, took up a good deal of time, although it would appear that he does not want anybody to reply to him. He told us that the House decided the 1061 question long ago. The House of Commons did, but not this House. It never has been discussed in this House, and my hon. Friend who has brought it forward has a perfect right to lay it before the House, and get a full and free opinion upon it. I am sure there are many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who will agree with what I say, and be prepared to support the free discussion of the matter. Surely the onus probandi is on the other side. It is universally admitted that free communication between different parts of the country which are concerned in the interchange of commodities and passengers is a very good thing. [Cries of "Oh !" and "Divide !"] The right hon. Gentleman on the other side may put a stop to the discussion by moving "That the Question be now put." He has a majority, and can do so; but let hon. Members opposite put the closure in a legitimate way, and not by giving utterance to inarticulate shouts. I say that this is an age of tunnels and bridges, and that free communication between peoples is a good thing. Yet, when we come to France, it is said that we ought not to have that froe interchange and communication that is desirable with all other countries. We have carried a tunnel across the Mersey, and another across the Severn; but now we come to the French Coast, although for three-quarters of a century we have never had a quarrel with France, the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade gets up and talks of our strained relations. Now, we have never had a rupture for a good many years, and there is no reason why we should have one. I was astonished to hear the hon. Gentleman say that our insularity was the source of our strength. I have heard that argument used against us—we who talk of peace are accused of wishing to isolate this country—and now we are told that insularity is the only thing that can protect us. The course taken in opposing this measure is one of the most extraordinary things of the present day. We have a Blue Book here published in the 19th century full of protests signed by Colonels, Archbishops, Bishops, Majors, poets, and painters, against the Channel Tunnel scheme; but I certainly was astonished to see among them the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt). His name, however, is the only 1062 one in the whole lot which may be said to represent the popular feeling of the country, because it is an expression of opinion on behalf of the working man. I therefore ask my hon. Friend to get up and explain how he can justify his opposition to this project on behalf of the working man? Why should he oppose a thorough interchange of commodities between the two countries? The only argument that can be used against it is that if we make this tunnel it may increase the chances of scare and panic, from which we are always suffering in this country. But surely my hon. Friend must have arrived at the conclusion that people will not always be as silly as they are now. Surely the nations will get wiser as time goes on. At any rate, it is our duty to teach them the folly of their ways. No doubt, the idea of military men is to oppose the scheme. They tell us that they would be unable to defend the country if this tunnel is made. Surely there are plenty of them, to do that. I received a very interesting pamphlet the other day, and on the cover of it was written—" With Lord Randolph Churchill's compliments," It states that in the Regular Army there are about 140,000 men, and in the Militia about 190,000, making nearly 250,000 of Regular troops to defend us. Including the Volunteers and Army Reserves, I find that there are from 400,000 to 500,000 men altogether in this country; and the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) states that this Force, with the Navy, costs us about £30,000,000 a-year. Notwithstanding all this, hon. Members come down to the House and say that they would be totally unable to keep the French Army from coming through a hole 20 feet square. [A laugh.] Hon. Members are inclined to laugh at that; but I maintain that it is an exact, correct, and literal statement of the case. I am not a military man, and therefore it may, perhaps, be thought that I ought not to speak on this subject; but, still, I think I know enough about the Army to say that the very best place in which to keep an invading enemy would be a hole 20 feet square, seven fathoms below the sea. What are we trying to do every day; what are every hon. and right hon. Gentleman trying to do every night in this House? Why, to put right hon. 1063 Gentlemen on the other side in a hole. It is considered that when you get a man in a hole you will be able to keep him down. [Cries of "Divide !"] I am only trying to answer the arguments of the Secretary to the Board of Trade. If hon. Gentlemen will study the Reports which have been so much alluded to in the course of the discussion, they will find that there could not be the slightest difficulty in dealing with an Army if it were coming through this tunnel. I find it stated and admitted by military men that it would be the easiest thing possible to pump water into it, or send in explosives or noxious gases, or to fill it up with shingle. Therefore, you have the means of filling up the tunnel with fire, water, earth, and noxious gases; and yet you say that with the French Army in a hole of that kind it would not be possible to overcome a French invasion. That is the most extraordinary statement I ever heard made on any subject. Ah, Sir; what an extraordinary thing it is that whenever a French invasion is mentioned we tremble ! Is it that "Conscience makes cowards of us all?" France is not afraid of our invading them, and yet we are an invading people. Witness the course we have pursued in regard to the Zulus, the Soudanese, and the Afghans; but we take care only to invade those who are not strong enough to defend themselves. But why we should be afraid of France, and make use of this cowardly argument whenever the possibility of a French invasion is mentioned, and why we should imagine that any danger can arise as long as the end of the tunnel is in our possession I cannot imagine. How long would it take to march a French Army through the tunnel? Let hon. Members consider how long it took this country to land 25,000 men in the Crimea. In perfectly calm weather it took us two days. There would be no greater difficulty in landing an Army if the tunnel were made than there is now; and if an Army is once landed, and gets possession of our forts, which I am told it easily could do, it would be all up with us, whether there was a tunnel or not. The whole argument of the opposition is based upon surprise. The theory is that the French may surprise us without declaring war; and the whole French nation is thus pictured to us as a nation of brigands ready to rush on us at any 1064 moment, and thirsting for our blood, even if they are compelled to get at us through a hole 20 feet square. But what would all the people in this country be doing? What are our statesmen for; what are our diplomatists kept abroad for, at great expense, but to tell us all about those things? What are our engineers for, but to provide aids and appliances to stop such actions on the part of the enemy—[Cries of "Divide !"]—and what are our soldiers for except to resist, and not sit in this House and cry "Divide, divide? "I may admit for a moment the argument that the French people are all brigands thirsting for our blood, and I will make the opponents a present of the argument of surprise; but I am not prepared to vote against the measure—to declare that our statesmen are idiots; that our diplomatists are ignoramuses; that our engineers are impostors; and that our soldiers are incompetent and cowards. I will not, therefore, by voting against the Bill, pass a vote of censure upon the common sense and common manliness of this country.
§ SIR EDWARD WATKIN
I cannot resist the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the Chairman of Committees; and therefore I am quite ready, as far as I am personally concerned, to go to a Division. At the same time, I scarcely think that such a course is just to the merits of the question. I am, however, entirely in the hands of the House.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided;—Ayes 107; Noes 153: Majority 46.—(Div. List, No, 348.)
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three mouths.