42. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £21,959, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1895, for the Salaries and other Expenses of the Temporary Commissions and Committees, including Special Inquiries.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, there was an item of £7,000 for the salaries and expenses of the Opium Commission. He did not wish to debate the question of the Commission now, but would deal with it when they had the Report before the House.
§ MR. WEIR
asked for information with regard to the working of the Colonisation Board. He should like to be told as to the treatment of Alexander Young, a 103 crofter settler. On the 24th of May he had put a question as to this case. Young complained that he and his family had received ill-treatment from the Agent of the Imperial Colonisation Board. These gentlemen stated that—The position of the Saltcoats crofters is not so satisfactory. Owing partly to a series of unsatisfactory seasons, the families remaining in the Settlement had not increased the cultivation of their farms to the extent that would have been anticipated. The spring of last year was rather late, and, consequently, some of the crofters who asked to be assisted with seed grain and potatoes did not sow all that was supplied to them, but disposed of it in other ways.Yes, they disposed of it to purchase meal to make porridge. The Report went on to say—They would have been in a much better position than they are now in that respect but for the number of stock lost in the Settlement in the winter of 1892–3, as mentioned in our previous Report. This was largely owing to the abnormal winter and to insufficient fodder having been provided for the sustenance of the animals. It is gratifying to notice that the agent in his Report considers the crofters remaining at Saltcoats to be on the fair road to success, and that the experience they have passed through will have a good effect upon their future.The good effect was that of the 49 colonists that were there only 18 were left. Further on the Report stated—The first instalment of the debt of the Salt-coats settlement became due in the autumn of last year. It has not been paid, and, in the circumstances already alluded to, it is probable that some indulgence will have to be extended to the settlers, a matter which is now having the consideration of the Board.He did not wish to detain the Committee one minute longer than was necessary by quotations from the Report, but he must refer to what Sir Charles Tupper said. In his communication to the Secretary of Scotland, he said—Even if they were in a position to pay I am strongly of the opinion that it would be to their interest to spend any available funds they might have in improving their farms and in adding to their stock. They would then be in a much better position a year or two hence to liquidate their obligations, and it would distinctly encourage them to persevere.Then he went on to say—Mr. Borradaile, in writing at the end of November last, after a visit he had paid to the colony, stated 'the only complaint to me by the crofters was that the low prices offered for their grain would not permit them to meet their obligations to the Board. All the crofters assured me 104 they would pay their municipal indebtedness out of the proceeds of this year's crop.' They certainly ought to have no difficulty in doing what they promised, and also in paying a portion of their other debts, and to permit of this being done I recommend that the repayment of the instalments to the Board should be deferred for a year or two. Besides, as in the case of the Saltcoats settlers, I am of the opinion, that they could with advantage spend any spare funds in improving their farms and in adding to their stock. It must be remembered, in considering the position of both the Killarney and Saltcoats Settlements, that the prices of grain of all kinds and of other farm produce have in the last two years much depreciated—in the case of grain to the extent of nearly one-half. Had prices been maintained the condition of the crofters to-day would have been very much better.What he objected to was that these poor crofters should be taken away from the Highlands and sent out to a foreign land to do as best they could for themselves, and then when poverty came upon them the Colonisation Board pounced down upon them. Mr. M'Neil, the Secretary to the Board of Supervision, was allowed to go to the Island of Lewis for the purpose of canvassing these crofters and urging them to emigrate to Saltcoats and Killarney. He thought the Secretary to the Board of Supervision should not be allowed to do that.
§ MR. WEIR
said, it was some time ago. He had also to complain of the salaries which were paid to the Secretary in London and to the Agent in Canada. He thought the time had arrived when this expenditure of British taxpayers' money in connection with this colonisation scheme should cease. The scheme had not been a satisfactory one, and, in justice to the people of this country, they ought not to be called upon to pay these sums of money to prop up a scheme which was absolutely rotten and unsound. He trusted the Secretary for Scotland would take steps at an early date to stop this expenditure of public money.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
said, the use of the Estimates was that hon. Members might call the Government to account; but he found it exceedingly difficult to know why his hon. Friend had made this attack on the Government. The Government had come to the conclusion 105 that this colonisation scheme, though it was started with the very best intentions, was a wrong policy, and they had not sent out a single crofter. The class of persons Parliament intended to benefit had found by experience that it was disadvantageous to them, and that opinion, he thought, was shared by others. What was the charge his hon. Friend brought against the Government? That they had been too kind to the colonists. The colonists at this moment owed to the nation the instalments that were due, and the Government had not exacted one single halfpenny. They had refused to pay their municipal tax, and the result was that the Local Government had sold up their farms, and at this moment they were in the position of a tenant who had received a notice of eviction in Ireland. That was at Killarney. He did not think any exception could be taken to the policy of the Government in this respect. They had sent out no more colonists, and they had forborne pressing for their rent from those who were out. The only matter the hon. Member could take exception to was that they paid £150 a year to the Secretary of the Colonisation Board in England, and £250 to the Agent in Canada. Would the hon. Member really wish that this country should absolutely cut itself adrift from these poor emigrants? He thought he would be the very last one to wish such a thing. They must keep up the very small staff by which they were able to watch their proceedings, and to extend to them, he must say, the great deal of national generosity which had up to this time been exceedingly sustaining. He believed it would be a very cruel kindness to cut the connection absolutely off, and leave the colonists entirely to their own devices. They were not going to send out any more colonists. The scheme was started with good intentions, but had failed, but they could not allow those who were out there perhaps to perish and die away for the want of such assistance as they were able to send out to them from time to time.
§ DR. CLARK
said, the great bulk of these colonists had gone away because they could do very much better at the timber works near them, and in other employments. The land which they purchased for them was practically useless, and the houses were lying empty there. He had visited one of these deserted colonies, travelling some 300 or 400 miles to do so. There was a crofter colony, but the houses stood there, and there was not a soul about, for the people who went there found they could do very much better in the lumber trade, and the bulk of them went to it. As far as Killarney was concerned it had been a failure, and he thought they could leave them to the tender mercies of the Manitoba Government. At Saltcoats, too, he thought it had been a failure. He did not think they would ever get a penny back. If they cared to go on spending this £500 for philanthropic purposes they could do so, but he did not think it worth while, and that the sooner they gave up the whole thing the better it would be for all concerned.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
desired to ask one or two questions with regard to the Welsh Land Commission. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman in charge of this Vote whether there was any prospect of the evidence of this Commission being published and circulated among the Members of the House? So far nothing had been done to circulate the mass of evidence taken, and the only opportunity of inspecting it was by the courtesy of the Secretary, in the form of proofs. He would like to know if there was any chance of the evidence being published and circulated amongst the Members. The procedure of the Commission had not been altogether effective, and he would like to know whether, following the precedent of the Labour Commission, it would not be possible for the Land Commission to appoint a number of travelling Commissioners to go about the districts and ascertain the condition of the farmers for themselves, and make investigations as to the nature of their tenure, with regard to the compensation for money expended by them on improvements on 107 their farms, and, generally, into the conditions of their leases.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH, Fife, E.)
said, it could not be too clearly understood that the Government had absolutely no jurisdiction whatever over the procedure of a Royal Commission when once it was appointed. The whole value of a Royal Commission as an independent inquiry would be neutralised if the Executive Government—even if they were within their rights—made suggestions to the Commissioners as to the mode in which they should carry out their inquiry, and whatever authority their Reports would otherwise have would in that way be very largely taken away. He should, therefore, certainly not feel it within his province to act in the sense in which the hon. Member had indicated, but he had no doubt the Commissioners would pay attention to the discussions in that House, and that, whatever practical value those suggestions might have, they would give full weight to what had been said by his hon. Friend. As to the other point as to the circulation of the evidence, there again the Commission was master of its own procedure, but he understood the evidence already taken was being printed, and would extend to two considerable volumes.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said, he understood the responsibility of circulating the evidence amongst Members fell entirely upon the Government. He would, therefore, ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether he could not undertake to have circulated the evidence which had already been printed?
§ MR. HUMPHREYS-OWEN
asked whether the power to appoint Assistant Commissioners, as suggested by his hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, was given by the Warrant constituting the Commission?
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said he desired to raise the question of the Opium Commission. He did not propose to deal with the duties of the 108 Commission or its work. The only question he wished to raise was the payment by this country of half the cost of that Commission. They had been informed that the other half, £7,000, was to be put on India. He entirely objected to that. This Commission had been appointed by the United Kingdom. Some persons had got an idea—
I do not see how the hon. Member can bring that on on this Vote. He cannot increase the charge that this Vote refers to as the amount to be paid by this country.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, that surely he had the right to discuss the amount put down for this country, and, in discussing it, say he thought England ought to pay the whole. Otherwise, if he could not discuss that, they would have no opportunity of discussing the question. He strongly objected to any part of this charge falling on India. He knew he could not increase the amount, and he saw he illogical position he would be in if moved to reduce the Vote, because that would simply mean that India would have to pay a still larger share of the cost, and that was not his object. Surely it was constitutional and in order that they should discuss the question, because they had had no opportunity of raising the subject before. He thought it would have been hardly in order in bringing the question up on the Indian Budget. That course would certainly have been rather unusual, and he thought he was quite in order in raising the question now. He would appeal to the Secretary of State for India whether he would not give way on this point. It had been raised several times, and if he would simply say he would consider the question, and make the whole cost come out of England, he should be quite satisfied, and not pursue the matter any further. He thought that when they had qualms of conscience they ought to pay for them. They had got a conscience about this opium question, and he thought that, as they had it, considering the special conditions of the Indian Budget, considering the very bad state of the natives themselves at the present time, and the very large deficiency on the Indian Budget, it seemed a very unfair thing that a country such as this, which was very rich, 109 should absolutely order that India should pay half the cost. India could not answer, and could not say whether she liked it or not. Therefore, he thought it was a reasonable thing to say that if he could get any promise from the Secretary for India that he would consider it, he should be satisfied. If not, he should have to proceed. Therefore, so as to be in order, he ventured formally to move to reduce the Vote by £7,000.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT, Derby)
said, he hoped the learned Member would not take the course he had suggested. This matter had been carefully considered by the Government. The House insisted on this Commission, and it would be remembered that the Resolution before the House asked for a Vote to be taken to put an end to the opium traffic altogether. It was thought that that was a very extreme measure to be taken, and it was suggested that a full inquiry should be made on the subject in India as to the bearings of the question upon India. So that India had a very direct interest in this Commission. It was felt that interference with the opium traffic would be injurious to India, and upon that ground it was felt that the interests of India in the Commission were as great as the interests of those who desired to deal with the traffic. There was no doubt that there were divergent views on the subject, and it was thought desirable that the whole case of the Indian Government and the Indian people should be properly brought out. He did not intend to express an opinion on the result of the Commission, but it really was greatly to the advantage of the Indian Government to nave the matter fully inquired into, and that no premature decision should be come to in this country by those who were, in their opinion, very imperfectly acquainted with the subject, and on which the interests of India largely depended. He thought, therefore, the grounds that the Indian Government had a very distinct interest in this Commission and in the facts being fully brought out justified a portion of the expenses being borne by India. That was the view the Government took, and he thought that on the whole it would be the view taken by the Committee generally.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he could not allow the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to pass without a word of protest. The fact was that this Commission was forced upon the Government by a band of crotcheteers, who really did not know what they were doing, and the Government, through their weakness, allowed this Commission to be issued, and, consequently, an enormous expense to be imposed on this country and on India. This Commission was sent to India against the wish of India. It was all very well to say it had been the means of letting light on the subject which was ultimately to benefit India. That might be so, but surely it was unreasonable to compel India to pay heavily in order that the absurd demand of a band of crotcheteers in this country, whose statements had been entirely exposed to be inaccurate and false, might be gratified, and in order to stop a great industry. The Government should have met this question boldly in the first place and refused the demand of these people, and have appealed to the good sense of the House of Commons in the matter. If they had done this they would undoubtedly have had their way, and this country and India would have been saved a great deal of expense.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, he thought the people of India had a just right to consider this a very ungenerous act on the part of the English Government. There was a feeling that in the relations between India and this country there might be occasions when it was thought that the interests of India might in some sense, either rightly or wrongly, be sacrificed to those of Great Britain. Here they had an instance in which the Government might very fairly have settled this trifling matter. It was only a matter of a few thousands of pounds. This Commission had been instituted not at the request of India nor on the part of the inhabitants of India. It was asked for to satisfy the scruples and the consciences of a large number of people in this country, and surely, if this Commission was appointed to satisfy the scruples of people in this country, the people of the country who had these scruples and this conscience should in all justice pay for it. He could not help feeling that the people of 111 India had a just right to complain of a charge of this kind, even if it was only half the expense, being put upon them.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he must say a word or two in corroboration of what had fallen from his hon. Friends. There was no desire on the part of the Government of India or the people of India for this Commission. On the contrary, both the Government and the people of India were positively against it, and therefore they both considered it very hard that they should have to bear any portion of the expense.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he very much shared the opinion that they had very often very unfairly put charges on the Indian Government and the Indian people which ought not to have been put upon them. He did not oppose the matter from that point of view, but he did not think that, when the Government of India had so strong an interest as they had in removing the very strong feeling and opinion that existed here in this matter, it was not unfair to halve the expense. He hoped the hon. Member would not take the illogical course of proposing that a less sum should be paid by England than that which was borne on the Estimates, because that only meant that India would have to pay a still larger sum. That being so, he hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion, and say that England should pay less than its share. In the circumstances, therefore, he hoped the hon. Member would be satisfied with having stated his views, in which he did not very much differ; but India having a very great interest in the matter, an interest that had been served by the operation of this Commission, he did not think it was unreasonable that India should bear its portion of the cost.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer evidently almost agreed with him that they were doing a shabby trick to India in asking that country to pay £8,000 for really converting this country into knowing something about the opium trade. The Opium Commission had been a useful Commission, and had enlightened the public very much. But they must remember 112 that it was England that had been enlightened, for India knew all about the matter already. They forced this Commission on India, and now they were about to force her to pay half the cost. It was not as if there had been a fair bargain between the two countries, but the matter had been absolutely forced upon India. However, he supposed he must be content with this protest, and, having made it, he begged to withdraw the Amendment.
§ MR. WEBB
entirely sympathised with what had been said by the hon. Member for Islington. This Commission was instituted by the present Parliament, and the Indian people were not consulted in the matter. There was, therefore, a certain meanness in calling upon them to pay half the expenses. He could not sit down without protesting against the language of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett), which he regarded as very unfair. The hon. Member taunted them with being "a band of crotcheteers." He did not think that those who sympathised with him (Mr. Webb) and his friends on the opium question were, at any rate, entitled to be so described.
§ MR. DALZIEL
said, there was an item on this Vote for "Commissions not specifically provided for" of £8,000. He should like to ask, was there anything in that for the Labour Commission?
§ MR. DALZIEL
I must ask the Government whether they intend to give us an opportunity of discussing this Report, which has been so long in coming, and which is not yet here?
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he had got down a separate Amendment to the very item the hon. Gentleman referred to, and here, again, he must protest against the way the Estimate was being voted. The very important question of the Royal Commission on Secondary Education was included in this Vote, on which they had had no opportunity of expressing any opinion. This Commission had produced a great deal of irritation throughout the country. It was a one-sided Commission; it was almost entirely composed of Members who were followers of Her Majesty's Government, and there was hardly any repre 113 sentation of Members on his side of the House upon it. Although he did not say that a matter of this kind should in any way have a political complexion given to it, still, when a Commission was appointed, it ought to be, to some extent, even in its character, so as not to lay itself open to the charge of being biased when its Report came out. This Commission was to investigate, and, possibly, largely influence, all the secondary private schools throughout the country; and, as had been pointed out in questions addressed to this subject, the private schoolmasters and schoolmistresses had been practically ignored on the Commission. Several times during the Session he had desired to call attention to the subject, but there had been no opportunity of doing so. He thought he was not overstating the case when he said that a great deal of apprehension existed on the matter among the bonâ fide teachers of private schools throughout the country. When they had referred to this subject the Vice President had stated that a lady had been put on the Commission who represented the Ladies' Public Day School Company, and also one other lady. The Ladies' Public Day School Company—of which he might claim to be one of the founders—had no doubt done a great deal of work in the way of secondary education, but it could not in any way be said to take the place of private adventure schools. It had never been carried on as a commercial undertaking in the strict sense; the directors had never been paid anything; but the Company was started with the object of showing that this system of secondary education could be carried on on a fairly remunerative basis if it was done well. Not only had the Company established 30 or 40 schools, but a great number of similar institutions had sprung from it. They did not claim anything for the Company; and if the work of education could be better done by others, they should be pleased to see it done, and to give every assistance. He protested against the formation of this Commission; he protested still more that they had not had an opportunity of discussing it, and predicted that on account of the way the Commission had been constituted its Report would have but little value.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said that, of course, the Report of the Commission could not be discussed upon this Vote. As to the constitution of the Commission, that was not a question upon which they could enter at the present time, but the hon. Member had stated his views upon that matter. It was quite certain that this Commission would not report before the next Session of Parliament, and no doubt the hon. Member would bring the matter forward then, but under no circumstances could he bring it forward now.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I gather that the right hon. Gentleman hopes that next year we shall have more time on the Estimates?
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
thought they had a right on this and other matters to ask that the business should be so laid out that they should have a better opportunity of discussing the various questions.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ 43. £1,991, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Expenses, agreed to.
§ 44. £15,000, to complete the sum for Diseases of Animals, agreed to.
§ 45. £21,000, to complete the sum for Highlands and Islands of Scotland (Public Works and Communications).
§ MR. WEIR
asked for some information from the Secretary for Scotland with regard to the appointment of a new chief, as he understood the present chief of the Commission had left, or was about to leave. He hoped whoever was appointed that he would be an active, energetic man. This Department, had been sadly neglected. He urged that more roads ought to be made in various parts of his constituency, especially school paths enabling children to cross the moors; and also advocated the construction of light railways, tramways, and harbours. The hon. Member concluded by moving to reduce the Vote by the sum of £100, in order to give the Secretary for Scotland an opportunity of replying to him.
observed, that there was no reason why an Amendment 115 of the kind should be moved if the only object of the hon. Member was to obtain information from a Minister.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
said, that a large proportion of the money given to Scotland was given to the hon. Member's own constituency. In the single constituency represented by the hon. Gentleman, last year, out of £7,500 for larger works, £4,460 and £1,800 were spent on the constituency. For minor works, out of £3,400, over £2,000 were spent upon that constituency. He must own that the effect of these complaints of his hon. Friend was to make him begin to be rather indifferent to those claims from that constituency, and to begin to think that there was really not much good in pouring out money in a constituency whose Representative always spoke in a grudging way of the liberality of Parliament. He could assure the hon. Member that the works would be pushed forward with all possible celerity.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ MR. DALZIEL moved to report Progress to ascertain whether, if Supply concluded to-night, the Government would consent to the House sitting tomorrow late enough to finish the Report of Supply.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Dalziel.)
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ The following Votes were agreed to:—
§ 46. £26,948 (including a Supplementary sum of £4,743), Repayment to the Local Loans Fund.
§ 47. £906, Repayments to the Civil Contingencies Fund.
§ 48. £1,000, to complete the sum for Hobart (Tasmania) Exhibition.