HC Deb 27 January 1887 vol 310 cc57-73

Mr. Speaker, when a Member of the House who has held Office in the Administration has been compelled to resign that Office, the House of Commons usually permits and expects some explanations of the reasons and causes of that action. If, Sir, it should be the good pleasure of the House to-night to receive such an explanation, I am informed by Lord Salisbury that I am possessed of the gracious permission of the Sovereign to place before the House certain facts and matters bearing upon my resignation of the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Speaker, I resigned that Office on the 20th of December last because I could not—I was altogether unable to become responsible for the Estimates which were presented by the Departments for the support of the Army and Navy in the coming year. Of course, it would be idle to deny what is very well known, that there were other matters of grave importance on which it was my misfortune to hold opinions differing from those of Lord Salisbury. But, Sir, those other matters were matters, in my opinion, perfectly susceptible of accommodation and contraction. This question of the Estimates on which I resigned was incapable of such contraction, for the reason that I was deeply and repeatedly pledged by many speeches I had made in various parts of the country to the policy of retrenchment and economy, because I was convinced by what I had learnt at the Treasury that such a policy was not only necessary, but perfectly feasible, and because, viewing those pledges, it was impossible for me usefully to retain Office as Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Government in whose policy effective retrenchment found no prominent place. Now, Sir, it is not, of course, my intention to analyze in any degree at this moment the Expenditure of this country, and, indeed, it is my desire to make my remarks on this occasion as brief and as concise as they possibly can be; because, in the first instance, the patience of the House has its limits, and, in the second place, if I were to try to make an explanation of a very elaborate character, such an explanation might tend to degenerate into a kind of indictment of the Government, which, I hold, would be neither useful nor becoming. But, Sir, I may state this detail—the amount of the Estimates which were presented to me as Chancellor of the Exchequer by the two Departments exceeded £31,000,000 for the coming year for the support of the Army and Navy; and there is another fact which I must mention, because it operated most seriously upon me. I had also to give a consent, and I did give a consent, though a reluctant one, to unusually large Supplementary Estimates for these two Services. There will be—or, at any rate, when I left the Government there was going to be—I had consented there should be presented to Parliament Supplementary Estimates amounting to the sum of £300,000 for the Navy, close upon £500,000 for the Army, and another £500,000 for expenses connected with the Army in Egypt; and undoubtedly I thought that those enormously large Supplementary Estimates formed an additional and grave reason for a reduction in the Naval and Military Expenditure in the coming year. Well, Sir, I wish briefly to put before the House my view of the position which I endeavoured to take. My view of the position is this—that the Expenditure for this year which is now expiring, and the Expenditure for the preceding year on armaments and on naval and military purposes, was an Expenditure of a distinctly abnormal character, and that it was the duty of the Government to make an effort to commence a return to what I would call a more normal Expenditure. I will just explain to the House by two figures only what I mean by a normal and abnormal Expenditure. Sir, if you take the 10 years from 1874 to 1884 you will find that the average Expenditure on the Army and Navy amounted to £25,000,000 a-year—that that standard of £25,000,000 was very closely adhered to during those 10 years; but if you take the three years 1885–6, 1886–7, together with 1887–8, if I had consented to, and if the House had voted the Estimates which were in question, you will find that the average Expenditure has risen from £25,000,000 to over £31,000,000, an increase perfectly sudden, only the lapse of one year between the two averages, an increase of just about £6,000,000 a-year. Well, Sir, that, the House will see, is no light matter. Even hon. Gentlemen who sit around me, and who naturally enough may have been disposed to take a somewhat unfavourable view of the action which I took, even they will admit that it was no light matter and no small difference which divided me from Her Majesty's Government. The right way, I think, to appreciate the magnitude of the difference is to turn that £6,000,000 into taxation. What does it mean in taxation? Sir, the increase of £6,000,000 on your Military and Naval Expenditure means a sum exceeding by £1,600,000 the entire produce of the Tea Duty; it means a sum equal to two-thirds of the Tobacco Duty; it means a sum equal to three-fourths of the Beer Duty; and it means a sum equal to six-sevenths of the Death Duties. The House must remember that this Beer Duty, and the Tea Duty, and the Tobacco Duty were all in existence before this increase took place, and they will not appreciably produce more than they are doing now, If you like to look at the figures in another way, and if you like to place the increase upon direct taxation, this increase of £6,000,000—this sudden jump, in time of peace, of £6,000,000 on Naval and Military Expenditure—means 3d. in the Income Tax. I only mention that point in order to show the House that it was a question of exceedingly large magnitude upon which I resigned, and that it was a question, in my opinion, which went to the very root of government and of policy. Sir, there has been, I think, a good deal of misconception as to the nature of the demand which I thought it was my duty to make upon the two Departments. People have supposed that I expected that that large increase should be immediately reduced upon a stroke of the pen. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) and my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) will bear me out in saying that I made no such demand. I never expected—I never was so wild or foolish as to expect—that any very large reduction could be immediately made, nor did I even expect that we should ever be able to get back to the average Expenditure of the 10 years I have named. But my right hon. Friends will confirm me in this—that the only request I made of them was that they should make a sensible and an appreciable effort, which should be expressed in pounds, shillings, and pence, to return, or to come to the commencement of returning, to a more normal Expenditure on military and naval purposes. I named no figure; I carefully avoided naming any figure. The amount I left entirely to the discretion, and judgment, and superior knowledge of my right hon. Friends. In my own mind—and I may have mentioned it casually in conversation without insisting upon it—I thought that a reduction of £1,000,000 in time of peace upon the Military and Naval Expenditure of the country would have been an adequate and satisfactory reduction; but my right hon. Friends know perfectly well—and they will bear me out—that I certainly should not have made any obstinate quarrel about £100,000, or £200,000, or even £300,000—in fact, if the worst had come to the worst, I really believe—I confess it with some reluctance—I really believe I should have been satisfied with a reduction of £500,000. But, Sir, it was only when I found from the view which my right hon. Friends took of the position—it was only when I found from the view they held that they were absolutely unable to make oven the commencement of an effort to return to a more normal state of Expenditure that I was forced—forced by a power far greater than Party ties, forced by what I had said in the Autumn, forced by the knowledge which I acquired at the Treasury—to send my resignation to Lord Salisbury. I will mention two details which struck me as most unsatisfactory from my point of view. The Army Estimates show a reduction of £300,000 connected with the expenses of the military occupation of Egypt; but, in spite of that reduction, the whole of the Army Estimates showed an increase of £300,000. That is what I could not understand; and there was a detail in the Admiralty Estimates which weighed with me very much. My noble Friend (Lard George Hamilton), in the statement he placed before me, showed a reduction of £500,000 upon the total Estimates for the Navy; but the whole of that £500,000 was taken off one Vote—the Vote for machinery, and my argument was this—if so large a reduction as £500,000 can be made on so important a Vote as machinery, surely some reductions may be made upon other Votes if they are carefully overhauled. I only mention these details as matters which weighed greatly with me in coming to a decision on the subject. I know it has been said, and it may be said again, that I have made an impossible demand. Well, Sir, I cannot, of course, pronounce upon whether it is possible or impossible. My own belief is that where there is a will there is a way, and the accuracy and efficacy of the maxim may be proved by what took place in 1869, when the Government of the day and the Parliament of the day were under the impression that the Naval and Military Expenditure of the country had reached an abnormal level; and so strong was that impression, and so resolute was the Government of the day, that the Estimates for 1870 for naval and military purposes, as compared with 1868, allowed a reduction of no less than £4,500,000. Certainly, Sir, I never asked for and never expected such a reduction as that. I thought I was reasonable. I thought I was entitled to ask some reduction to be made in a time of peace in this largely increased Naval and Military Expenditure. There has been another misconception which I am anxious to clear away. I am supposed to have resigned on the Budget. Sir, my resignation—and my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) will confirm me—had nothing whatever to do with the Budget. I never should have thought of resigning on the Budget. The Budget is the plan of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for providing for the Services of the year; and my idea is that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer produces a plan which is not acceptable to his Colleagues, it is his business and his duty either to modify or alter the plan until it is agreeable to his Colleagues. But, certainly, I had no right or claim to cram any financial scheme of mine down the throats of my Colleagues under the threat of resignation. My resignation had nothing to do with the Budget. I resigned upon the expenditure of a special Department of the Government. My right hon. Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. Smith) laid down in this House, without much qualification, in 1883, a proposition which I almost entirely agree with. He then laid it down very positively that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was primarily and principally responsible for every shilling in the Estimates. I do not disagree with that proposition. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer must satisfy himself reasonably in his own mind upon two points—in the first place, that the demands put forward by the Departments do not exceed the necessities of the year; and, in the second place, that the money which is voted by Parliament shall be expended in such a manner that the nation gets full value for its money. These are two points on which, I think, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be reasonably satisfied, and it is on these two points that I utterly and hopelessly broke down. I could not satisfy myself that the demands for these two Departments were not excessive. I felt certain that if the foreign policy of this country were a peaceful foreign policy these Estimates were too excessive. I felt equally certain—though I am liable to error—I felt equally certain that our foreign policy at the present moment ought to be a peaceful foreign policy, I do not mean that kind of peace which is a flattering phrase of a platform peroration; but I mean a genuine, effective, peaceful foreign policy, which should be marked by absence of unnecessary initiatives, by an indisposition to interfere too promptly in European affairs; and, Sir, in fact, a policy of that character which should approach very nearly to the domain of non-intervention. Well, Sir, on these two points I held the strongest possible opinions, and I did not see my way to alter those opinions. But in the second point—namely, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be satisfied that the money which Parliament votes is properly spent—there, again, I could feel no satisfactory assurance. In fact, Sir, I had suspicions which I ought not to call suspicions, because they amounted almost to a conviction, that the reverse was the case. It is not now the time, and this would not be the proper occasion, to examine that matter more minutely; but I may remind the House of this—that we have had since 1883 a series of what I may call Departmental scandals, I believe unprecedented in the history of this country. I only need to run them over on my fingers. There was the exposure—the scandalous exposure—of the defects in the Commissariat Department in Egypt during the first campaign. There was subsequently, during the second Egyptian Campaign, the exposure of the brittle swords, the bending bayonets, and jamming cartridges. You then had in connection with the financial administration of the Admiralty that grave scandal which arose just before the Government left Office in 1885. The Admiralty was discovered to have spent no less a sum than £1,000,000 sterling without the knowledge of the Treasury, and apparently without their own knowledge. Then you had the very serious evidence which was given to the House and the public as to the total failure of three most expensive ships, the Ajax, the Agamemnon, and the Impérièuse—the total failure of these ships to fulfil the expectations of their designers, although they had cost no less than £1,500,000 of money. And then you had the bursting gun; and all these scandals with the charges of inefficiency, and worse than inefficiency, which accompanied them, came pressing one upon another. Sir, I took no part in the discussions in the House on these subjects, because I was not qualified to take any part in such discussions; but I listened, and the series, the rapid series, of these Departmental scandals produced a most unpleasant effect upon my mind. I say it not in the least as imputing blame, but I say it as one of my reasons for taking the action which I did, that I could not feel any assurance whatever that that series of Departmental scandals had made the same deep impression upon the mind of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith), and upon my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton); and I do not wish to impute blame, but I say it produced a tremendous impression on my mind, one which I could not shake off. There is only one more question I should like to clear up, if I may do so without trespassing too much upon the time of the House. It has been widely stated, on authority apparently, that I resigned my Office in haste. In fact, I see it stated that I resigned in a temper, and I observe that my resignation is usually designated by a Government organ as an escapade, whatever that may mean. But I should like to tell the House exactly what the facts are, because it is important they should be known. The facts are these—that this controversy about expenditure has been going on between me and my right hon. Friend (Mr. Smith) and my noble Friend the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) almost since the commencement of the Government, going on in a perfectly friendly manner; and, indeed, all that occurred has not altered by one jot or iota the friendly feelings which existed between my right hon. Friends and myself. But, as a matter of fact, I brought my views before Lord Salisbury on this question of effective Army and Navy Expenditure as long ago as the month of August last, in a conversation which I had with him in Arlington Street. I then expressed my views, and told him how strongly I felt upon this subject. The House is possibly aware that in a speech I made at Dartford I especially alluded to this subject. I alluded to it briefly but strongly, and I think my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) and the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton) were aware of how strong a meaning I attached to my expressions at Dartford. But before I went down to address the meeting at Bradford in the month of October—the morning before—I had another long conversation with the First Lord of the Treasury, and with Lord Salisbury in Arlington Street, and again I indicated most clearly to them that unless there was an effort at retrenchment it would be impossible for me to retain the Exchequer. Then, Sir, in the middle of the month of October, I wrote to the present First Lord of the Treasury, and to the First Lord of the Admiralty, requesting them, as a particular favour, to get the Army and Navy Estimates prepared, so that they might be considered by the Cabinet before Christmas. Not only was I anxious that these matters should be considered by the Cabinet while there was yet time and ample leisure, but I was also determined that if the decision as to the amount of those Estimates should be against me I should not continue in my Office, but would resign at such a moment as to give to Lord Salisbury the most ample margin of time to make any arrangement that was necessary before Parliament met. Well, Sir, on the 13th of December I wrote to Lord Salisbury to say that from what I heard I feared he would have before long to choose between the heads of his great spending Departments and his Chancellor of the Exchequer. On Thursday, the 16th of December, I had another protracted conversation with Lord Salisbury on the whole question, in which I indicated to him that the matter was approaching a crisis. On Monday, the 20th of December, the Estimates were communicated to me, the Navy Estimates by my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) in the morning, and the Army Estimates by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Smith) in the afternoon; and it was clear to me that the position that they took up was one which admitted of no modification and no alteration, and I also was aware of what the Prime Minister's mind was on the subject, and on Monday, the 20th, I was put in that corner that I had absolutely no option but to write to Lord Salisbury to resign my Office. I have only wearied the House with these facts because I wanted to show the House that the suggestion that my action has been taken in a hurry is entirely wrong. I greatly doubt whether any Member ever took action on any grave question more deliberately, more long thought of, and more considerately. Now, Sir, I think that those who suppose I would be capable of resigning the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in a hurry or in a temper hardly do justice to their charge. There is no position open to a private individual in this country prouder and more honourable than that of Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. It is not a position which is lightly or hastily resigned. I can assure my hon. Friends who sit around me that it was a very hard and bitter thing for me to have to do—to sever my connection with the Government, and to resign a position so honourable, although so anxious and responsible. But I could not help it. I was pledged by speeches which I had made to the people. Sir, I may make this remark. The relations which exist between a Minister and the people are nowadays so direct and very close, and owing to the practice of great and large mass meetings, which have become so usual and so common, a Minister or the Leader of the Opposition is brought into close contact with the people. He discourses with the utmost freedom, without much qualification, on public affairs. The practice may have its advantages and its disadvantages, but the practice exists; and I can conceive nothing more disastrous or ruinous, or more fatal to the healthy tone of our English political life, than that the people should take it into their heads that a Minister or Leader of the Opposition, whoever he be, when he comes down to address them, thinks of nothing but exciting a momentary and passing cheer, and leaves the meeting straightway without remembering what manner of man he is. I hope it will never be imputed with accuracy or justice to me that I knowingly or intentionally contributed to such a belief. Sir, I have placed before the House as rapidly as I can the various reasons which forced me, on the 20th of December, to write to Lord Salisbury the letter which I am permitted to read. The House will understand that further opportunities will arise for a more exhaustive and analytical examination of the Expenditure of the Government. The House will not wish me, and I am not anxious to anticipate those opportunities. All I have to do is to place as briefly as possible before the House the reasons which caused me to leave the Government. I wrote on the 20th of December to Lord Salisbury— Dear Lord SALISBURY, The approximate Estimates for the Army and Navy for the next year have been to-day communicated to me by Lord George Hamilton and Mr. Smith. They amount to £31,000,000; £12,500,000 for the Navy, and £18,500,000 for the Army. The Navy Votes show a decrease of nearly £500,000, but this is to a great extent illusory, as there is a large increase in the demand made by the Admiralty upon the War Office for guns and ammunition. The Army Estimates, thus swollen, show an increase of about £300,000. The total of £31,000,000 for the two Services, which will in all probability be exceeded, is very greatly in excess of what I can consent to. I knew that on this subject I cannot look for any sympathy or effective support from you, and I am certain that I shall find no supporters in the Cabinet. I do not wish to be wrangling and quarrelling in the Cabinet, and therefore I must request to be allowed to give up my Office, and retire from the Government. I am pledged up to the eyes to large reductions of expenditure, and I cannot change my mind on this matter. If the foreign policy of the country is conducted with skill and judgment, our present large and increasing armaments are quite unnecessary, and the taxation which they involve perfectly unjustifiable. The War Estimates might be very considerably reduced, if the policy of expenditure on the fortifications and guns and garrisons of military ports, mercantile ports, and coaling stations was abandoned or modified; but of this I see no chance, and under the circumstances I cannot continue to be responsible for the finances. I am sure you will agree that I am right in being perfectly frank and straightforward on this question, to which I attach the very utmost importance; and, after all, what I have written is only a repetition of what I endeavoured to convey to you in conversation the other day. Believe me to be, Yours most sincerely, RANDOLPH S. CHURCHILL. I wrote that letter on the 20th of December, and I received, late in the evening of the 22nd of December, the following reply from Lord Salisbury, which I am permitted to read. Lord Salisbury wrote:— Hatfield House, Hatfield, Herts, December 22, 1886. My dear Randolph,—I have your letter of the 20th from Windsor. You tell me, as you told me orally on Thursday, that £31,000,000 for the two Services is very greatly in excess of what you can consent to; that you are pledged up to the eyes to large reductions of Expenditure, and cannot change your mind in the matter; and that, as you feel certain of receiving no support from me or from the Cabinet in this view, you must resign your Office and withdraw from the Government. On the other hand, I have a letter from Smith telling me that he feels bound to adhere to the Estimates which he showed you on Monday; and that he declines to postpone, as you had wished him to do, the expenditure which he thinks necessary for the fortification of coaling stations, military ports, and mercantile ports. In this unfortunate state of things I have no choice but to express my full concurrence with the views of Hamilton and Smith and my dissent from yours—though I say it both on personal and public grounds with very deep regret. The outlook on the Continent is very black. It is not too much to say that the chances are in favour of war at an early date; and when war has once broken out we cannot be secure from the danger of being involved in it. The undefended state of many of our ports and coaling stations is notorious; and the necessity of protecting them has been urged by a strong Commission, and has been admitted on both sides in debate. To refuse to take measures for their protection would be to incur the gravest possible responsibility. Speaking more generally, I should hesitate to refuse at this time any Supplies which men so moderate in their demands as Smith and Hamilton declare to be necessary for the safety of the country. The issue is so serious that it thrusts aside all personal and Party considerations. But I regret more than I can say the view you take of it; for no one knows better than you how injurious to the public interests at this juncture your withdrawal from the Government may be. In the presence of your very strong and decisive language I can only again express my very profound regret. Believe me, yours very sincerely, SALISBURY. The House will observe, Sir, that that letter is absolutely final and conclusive. Lord Salisbury did not demur to my suggestion that there was no use in discussing the question in the Cabinet. Lord Salisbury did not request that the whole matter should be laid before him, as the First Lord of the Treasury, in order that it might receive personal examination. On the contrary, he expressed his total concurrence with the Heads of the Departments, and his total dissent from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He added that he had nothing to do but to express his deep regret. The House will see that that was a letter which brought things to a conclusion. Therefore, on the 22nd of December I wrote the following letter to Lord Salisbury:— Carlton Club, December 22, 1886. Dear Lord Salisbury,—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of to-day's date accepting my resignation of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. I feel sure you will believe me when I express my deep and abiding appreciation of the unvarying kindness which you have shown me, and of the patience and indulgence with which you have always listened to the views on various public matters which I have from time to time submitted to you. The great question of public expenditure is not so technical or departmental as might be supposed by a superficial critic. Foreign policy and free expenditure upon armaments act and re-act upon one another. I believe myself to be well informed on the present state of Europe; nor am I aware that I am blind or careless to the probabilities of a great conflict between European Powers in the coming year. A wise foreign policy will extricate England from Continental struggles, and keep her outside of German, Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time observed a tendency in the Government attitude to pursue a different line of action, which I have not been able to modify or check. This tendency is certain to be accentuated if large Estimates are presented to and voted by Parliament. The possession of a very sharp sword offers a temptation which becomes irresistible to demonstrate the efficiency of the weapon in a practical manner. I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the Empire, the universality of our commerce, the peaceful tendencies of our democratic electorate, the hard times, the pressure of competition, and the high taxation now imposed, and with these factors vividly before me I decline to be a party to encouraging the military and militant circle of the War Office and Admiralty to join in the high and desperate stakes which other nations seem to be forced to risk. Believe me, I pray you, that it is not niggardly cheeseparing or Treasury crabbedness, but only considerations of high State policy which compel me to sever ties in many ways most binding and pleasant. A careful and continuous examination and study of national finance, of the startling growth of expenditure, of national taxation, resources, and endurance has brought me to the conclusion, from which nothing can turn me, that it is only the sacrifice of a Chancellor of the Exchequer upon the altar of thrift and economy which can rouse the people to take stock of their Leaders, their position, and their future. The character of the domestic legislation which the Government contemplate, in my opinion, falls sadly short of what Parliament and the country expect and require. The foreign policy which is being adopted appears to me at once dangerous and methodless, but I take my stand on expenditure and finance, which involve and determine all other matters; and reviewing my former public declarations on this question, and having no reason to doubt their soundness, I take leave of your Government, and especially of yourself, with profound regret, but without doubt or hesitation. Yours most sincerely, RANDOLPH S. CHURCHILL. I have now laid before the House the causes of my resignation, and I have sincerely to thank the House for the indulgence which it has accorded to me.

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

Mr. Speaker, I have, Sir, on rising, to make an appeal to the House. Placed in the position in which I am, I desire to appeal to hon. Members for the indulgence and for that favourable interpretation of all my actions which are necessary to one who feels deeply his own deficiencies in following in the steps of the many great men who have held the important position which I now fill. I appeal to them in the hope that by the cordial support of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and by the generous interpretation of my acts by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I may be enabled, to the best of my ability, to maintain the order and decorum of the proceedings of this House and the decencies of debate. Now, Sir, I have risen to make a few observations on the statement that has been made by my noble Friend; and I hope I may be allowed to express on my own part, and also on the part of my Colleagues, the profound regret with which we part from him as a Colleague. We are aware of his great ability; we have derived immense advantage from his counsel and advice; and I may say, for myself, that any sacrifice which I could have made personally would have been gladly made in order that he might have retained his position. He is perfectly well aware that I offered, unreservedly, to place my resignation in the hands of the Government if a Minister could have been found who would have met his views in the matter of public Expenditure, and I also assured him that I would cordially support the Minister who would take my place in the Government in the effort to conduct the affairs of the Department over which I then presided with the economy which he desired. My noble Friend has stated to the House the circumstances which led up to the event which culminated on the 20th of December. My noble Friend was good enough to come to the War Office, and to discuss with me the draft Estimates which had been prepared, and he asked me to cut off the provision for the coaling stations.


I did not ask for that; I suggested it.


Well, the noble Lord suggested that the provision for the coaling stations should be reduced, or, I think, cut off altogether, and that other considerable reductions should be made. My noble Friend has stated that he hoped we might have made a reduction of £1,000,000 in the Estimates of this year about to be presented to the House, as compared with the Estimates of last year as they were presented to the House. He has said that he would have been satisfied with £500,000, but that as we could not reduce the Estimates even by £500,000 he felt it to be his duty, looking at the tendency and the spirit in which the Departments were administered, to tender his resignation. Sir, I understand that it is not desirable that I should enter into details that might provoke debate. You have ruled, Sir, that debate under the present circumstances is not admissible, and that nothing beyond a personal explanation can be allowed. Under those circumstances, I refrain from entering into the details which would justify, in my judgment, the expenditure which I thought it necessary to propose to the Government. But the opportunity will be afforded, and I hope most earnestly that my noble Friend will then give his assistance to the House and to the Government in the effort to make those reductions which he believes to be possible and advisable. My noble Friend has spoken of himself as pledged to effective retrenchments, which, he said, found no permanent place in the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Well, I hold that I am individually—that I was, and that I continue to be, completely bound and held by retrenchment, and effective retrenchment is part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, of the House of Commons, and is certainly part of the duty of the House of Commons. But the question arises, what is "effective retrenchment," and how is it to be carried out? I could not see, with my noble Friend, that it was possible to carry out effective retrenchment under present circumstances—under the circumstances alluded to in the letter of Lord Salisbury, referred to by my noble Friend—in the way in which he desired. My noble Friend spoke of the amount as abnormal. Undoubtedly there are abnormal charges in the present Estimates, for which the present Government are not in any way responsible. We are carrying out an expenditure of which, personally, we do not approve; but we could not immediately refuse an expenditure commenced by previous Governments, and which, in the opinion of the House of Commons itself, was found to be necessary and essential, and which was forced upon the Successors of the Government. My noble Friend has spoken of the circumstances and conditions which have brought about the demand which is now made. He has suggested that the policy of the Government is one which tends to an excessive initiation. He has suggested that if there had been a less disposition on the part of the Government to mix itself up in the affairs of Europe, there would be less necessity for the expenditure which has been contemplated. Now, I venture to declare, on the part of the Government, that there has been no excessive initiation, and that there is, in the very bottom of our hearts, a desire to keep England out of any unnecessary complications, and a determination not to enter into any engagements which may compel us to take part in those controversies to which my noble Friend has referred. My noble Friend, in the earlier part of his speech, made the remark that, although there were differences at first, they were susceptible of accommodation. Well, I am quite sure of this—that the differences in the Cabinet were not differences of a character that were susceptible of accommodation, or differences in which my noble Friend could possibly consent to be swayed by the majority of his Colleagues. There is one matter in his letter to which I would wish to draw attention, and that is where he remarks upon the attitude of the Government and their disposition to pursue a line of action which it would be impossible to modify or check. My own belief is, that on further reflection he will find that such is not the case; that his own statement this evening is the more correct statement; and that any matters on which there might be differences of opinion were matters which were susceptible of accommodation between himself and his Colleagues. But I do not think I ought to occupy the attention or time of the House, under present circumstances, at greater length. I not only desire to defend the policy of the Government in regard to those matters of which my noble Friend complains, but I will go further, and say that I desire his assistance, and I will give him all the help in my power; and if he can put his finger on any single blot, if he can give evidence of any extravagance or of any unnecessary expenditure, all the assistance which either a Committee of this House or a Committee of Supply can render him will, I am sure, be cordially afforded to him by the House and the Government, and there will be no disposition to withdraw or keep back information, nor any wish to shrink from obtaining the opinion and the verdict of the House of Commons, both as to our policy and as to the reasonableness of all its conditions. Sir, I am deeply conscious of the distress and suffering which the taxpayer has endured during the last two or three years. I hope a better time is coming, and if it be possible to effect a reduction in the public burdens I shall be the first to welcome assistance in that direction, from whatever quarter of the House it may proceed.