§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I am surprised that a Bill of this magnitude and involving important principles has been moved without a word of explanation. I think the House ought to understand what is proposed.
§ THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
I have already explained what is proposed to be done by the Bill. I explained it once on the Committee stage and once on the Report stage of the resolution.
§ MR. FLYNN
The hon. Member did not go at any length into the reasons for the Bill. He did not state the reasons why His Majesty's Government have changed their attitude with regard to the Bill. He did not explain why the colonies of Canada and Australia have been able to induce His Majesty's Government to change their policy, and why this country is to be committed to an expenditure of a capital of £2,000,000, and the Lord knows how much of an annual expenditure, without any guarantee that the cable will pay. There is another point on which I wish to be informed in the course of the discussion. This is the first time that the Government have engaged in an enterprise with the resources of the country at their back against a private enterprise—namely, the Eastern Telegraph Company. I maintain that the Government in this matter have completely changed their mind in less than a couple of years, and it is not difficult for anyone who has read the proceedings of the Committee, and who have followed the correspondence issued from the Colonial Office, to see bow the Government proceeded from step to step until the Colonial Secretary capitulated to Australia and Canada in order that these colonies might have a reduction of the tariff for cablegrams. 480 The Government are engaging in a dangerous enterprise, and committing the country to the expenditure of a large sum of money. I find from the Colonial Office correspondence which has been issued that the Government in April, 1899, laid down two principles which are being flatly contradicted by this Bill The first principle was—Her Majesty's Government have never concealed their opinion that the construction of a Pacific cable is of greater importance to Australia and Canada than to the United Kingdom, and they would not have been disposed to recommend Parliament to aid it but for their desire to afford the support and assistance of the Mother Country to her great self-governing colonies in a project the success of which cannot fail to promote Imperial unity.The other principle, which, to my mind, very much more strongly emphasised the view of the Government, was—That Her Majesty's Government consider the responsibility for constructing and working the cable should be borne by the Governments of Canada and Australia, to whom any profits which may accrue would fall.I think the House is entitled to know what has occurred since April, 1899, to cause the Government to change their mind, and why, instead of allowing the responsibility for the construction and working of this cable to be borne by the Governments of Canada and Australia, this Government should take upon themselves the responsibility of conducting the cable. There is a clause in the Bill which places on this country the entire responsibility for the annual maintenance of the cable if it does not pay. It seems to me that the Colonial Secretary had changed his mind on this matter, as on many others, and we know that when the Colonial Office moves in a certain direction the whole of the Government have to follow. [Hear, hear.] Does the right hon. Gentleman dispute that in connection with this Bill? If he does, I think he should give the House an intelligent argument and not an inarticulate interruption. Clause 3 of the Bill says:—The amount required in each year for the annual expenses of the Pacific cable, including any such expenses incurred before the passing of this Act, shall be defrayed out of the receipts arising in connection with the cable, and, so far as those receipts are not sufficient, out of moneys provided by Parliament.481 I am perfectly convinced that the House is not generally aware of the importance of this matter, and that at least the majority of the members cannot have read the correspondence which was issued in 1899 and 1900. A long correspondence passed between the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Government, and the House will be interested to mark the proceedings. The Telegraph Company naturally concluded that the Foreign Office was the authority to whom the correspondence should be addressed, and they accordingly addressed their letter to the Prime Minister. After some weeks the Telegraph Company was informed that the matter was in the hands of the Colonial Office, and two months passed before the Telegraph Company got the courtesy of a reply to their most important communication.
What is the nature of the case put forward by the Eastern Telegraph Company? I need not say that neither I nor any of my colleagues have any interest in upholding a monopoly by the company, but we wish to oppose the proposal of the Government to embark on a scheme which is to run in direct opposition to private enterprise. This company have spent millions in the development of their telegraph system. Now, instead of this Pacific cable being undertaken by a private company, relying upon the scheme paying because of its merits, we have the Government of the day advancing the capital and pledging themselves to a large annual expenditure in order to compete with the Eastern Telegraph Company. That company have provided a system of telegraphic communication between Canada and Australia which has given satisfaction, and with regard to which no complaint has been made. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] I suppose the hon. Member will have an opportunity of speaking later on, but I would ask hon. Members' attention to this fact that in the whole of the correspondence there is no allegation on the part of the Colonial Office or anybody else that the Telegraph Company have not done their duty properly. They may have a monopoly to some extent, but in the very last communication they made they state that they are willing to grant most reasonable terms. They go on to state that the cable traffic between Canada and Australia 482 has been greatly exaggerated by those interested in this enterprise. In the evidence brought before the Pacific Cable Committee it was shown that in September, 1899, the number of messages exchanged between Canada and Australia was thirty-five, and, taking these at an average of thirteen words per message, there would be 5,460 words per annum, and at the present tariff of 6s. 3d. per word, that would represent £1,706 per annum. The House was asked to undertake responsibility for £2,000,000 of capital, and a cost of £25,000 or £30,000 a year for maintenance in respect of an enterprise which only brings in £1,706 of revenue altogether. No doubt the main motive in tins matter of the Australian colonies was the expected reduction of the tariff. That would not be denied. We have no objection to that, but I presume there is a point at which the cable would be carried on at a loss. If the Australian colonies or the mother country want better terms and a reduction of the tariff, let them pay for it, and not come to the taxpayers of this country, who are already overburdened with other charges. The main object is the protection of the cable. They point out that on the traffic between Europe and Australia the rate at one time was 9s. 4d. a word; the Australian colonies thought this rather high, and they negotiated with the Eastern Telegraph Company with a view to the reduction of the tariff. After some time the company agreed to a reduction of 4s., but stipulated that they should be partially guaranteed by the colonies against loss. Who complained of that arrangement? The colonies! It did not pay, and the Australian colonies themselves reopened the matter, and, notwithstanding the advice of the Eastern Telegraph Company, they raised it to the present rate of 4s. 9d. per word. No doubt it would be very good business for the colonies if, at the expense of the mother country, they could get this cable laid and get half, or even one-third, of the present cable traffic which passes through the Eastern Telegraph Company's cable. If only one-third of the traffic could be diverted this cable would pay, but the Eastern Telegraph Company would require compensation. Is Parliament prepared to compensate 483 this company, and if not, why not? But it is impossible for this company to pay; the cable traffic to Australia is not increasing at all. The Australian colonies themselves in the last negotiations with the company had to raise the rate, because the lower rate resulted in a loss to them under their guarantee, and no doubt there is nothing they would like better than a reduction in the tariff at the expense of the mother country. The decrease in cable traffic in 1897 was 80 per cent. on the number of words cabled, and it has further decreased since. I think this House should ask why the last despatch from the Eastern Telegraph Company, making certain offers of reduction, which offers were communicated to the Australian colonies, was not answered, and not even referred to.
September 28th, 1899. The offer of the cable company was this—The proposal recently submitted to the Australasian Colonies by the companies for extending the Cape cable to Australia not only provides for an immediate reduction of tariff to 4s. per word, but involves the application to the Australasian traffic of the same sliding-scale principle as adopted for the Cape traffic, by means of which the tariff might, without any sacrifice on the part of the Australasian Colonies, be further reduced in 190i to 3s. 6.1. per word, to 3s. in i902, and to 2s. 6d. in 1903, provided the traffic satisfactorily responds to the proposed reductions.That was a fair offer, and why is it there was no reference to that letter, and that Parliament has no information as to the view the Australian colonies took of that letter? I can quite understand Australia liking to get a reduction in the price of cable traffic, and I do not blame them for their action if they take the responsibility themselves; but the Eastern Telegraph Company urge that it will not pay on the present basis of work done. I understand upon the present amount of traffic between Australia and Canada what will be affected by this is only 5 per cent. of the whole, and I should think the House would hesitate before embarking in such an enterprise. I want to know something more about this offer by the 484 telegraph company — whether it was considered reasonable or otherwise. Is the Government justified in embarking in a large expenditure when this strong opposition is already at work? With regard to the possibilities of its paying a large revenue, let me read this statement from the letter of the company of the 19th July, 1899:—With regard to the twentieth paragraph of your Lordship's letter, I have already pointed out the fallacy of supposing that there will be a large development of revenue arising from the traffic between Canada and the United States and Australia"—I would ask the House to consider the two branches of the subject; there is the amount of cable traffic between Australia and Canada and the amount between Canada and this country to be considered—or that the lowering of rates will immediately increase the general revenue arising from the Australasian traffic. I am at a loss to understand the statement in this paragraph that 'it is from these sources' (really nonexistent) 'rather than by any diversion of business from the Eastern Extension Company that the new cable will look for employment, and that there is no intention of working the new cable on other than commercial lines, and at remunerative rates.'Now what is the reply—If His Majesty's Government really imagines that the traffic between Canada and the United States of America and Australasia, together with the increased volume of business which a reasonable lowering of rates is expected to produce, can give remunerative employment to a Pacific cable, this is an absolute delusion; for the Report of the Committee avows that, even with the diversion of between one-third and a half of the companies' European-Australasian traffic and the estimated, and indeed over-estimated, annual increase of 10 per cent. (which my former letter showed to be greatly exaggerated), no profit, taking into consideration the necessity for a duplicate cable, can be expected from the scheme for at least ten years, even with the aid of His Majesty's Government in raising the money at 2½ or 2¾ per cent. Such a scheme, I submit, is not framed on commercial lines.My first objection to this is that it is an unwarrantable interference with private rights. What did Mr. Raikes say? The late Mr. Raikes, when Postmaster General, said—It would be without precedent for the Government itself to become interested in such a scheme in such way as to constitute itself a competitor with existing commercial enterprises carried on by citizens of the British Empire.485 And the permanent official of the Post Office before the Cable Committee gave evidence to the same effect.
The whole weight of evidence is overwhelmingly against the scheme. The whole evidence goes to prove that the scheme has been adopted hastily, and that this is a policy pledging the Government of this country to an expenditure of £2,000,000 without adequate consideration. One understands municipal enterprise for the supply of such things as gas and water and other things now regarded as necessaries of life, but that is obviously an entirely different thing to embarking in a scheme to which you were originally opposed, and in regard to which you have no guarantee that it will pay, and which, if it is to be an advantage, will be an advantage to Canada and Australia, but not to this country. We know the argument that this Pacific cable will be an all-British cable; but if only that is the idea, why not take the cable round by way of the Cape, which the Colonial Secretary admitted would be of great strategical importance, and which the Eastern Telegraph Company agreed to do without asking any money from this House? There is not an argument left in this enterprise; it is nothing but another development of the shoddy Imperialism which has met us at every turn in this House for the last two years. If it is necessary to have the cable, why not let the Colonies make it? But why make it at all when an existing company is willing to make a communication through the Cape of Good Hope, which is admitted to be a more economical route? There is one thing in regard to this matter which one almost hesitates to touch, but which raises a rather curious aspect of the question. One of the prime movers in this matter is Lord Strathcona, who is, as everybody knows, a man of unimpeachable integrity, but it does not enhance my confidence to know that he is to be one of the directors of this company, and he is largely interested in the government of Canada, and in the Pacific cable, and other matters. Now in the corporation of my native city such a thing as that would be looked upon with the gravest suspicion. I think no case has been made out for this Bill, but that a strong case has been 486 made out against it. I think the making of this all-British cable has been gone about in the most expensive manner, and that after the offer made in September, 1899, by the company, the embarkation in this wild-cat scheme shows in itself that the House is losing all its sense of commercial undertakings.
§ *MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
I regret the absence of our chief the hon. Member for Hythe, who is chairman of the Telegraph Committee. I desire to tell the House in a few words the story of the cable communication with Australia. In 1870, when Australian communication was desired, the firm of John Pender and Co. jockeyed—I am sorry to have to use the word—a certain portion of the Australian Government into constructing an enormous land line, which considerably increased the cost of cable communication. When that company was established it worked so badly and inadequately that Government subsidies were obtained to the amount of £32,000 a year. When the company got their cable line to Australia they charged enormous rates, first of all £10 or £12 a message, which on pressure being brought to bear was reduced to 10s. 6d. a word, and then 7s. 6d. a word. Only by the Australian Government promising a large subsidy was the rate reduced to 4s. a word, and to-day we have got it down to 3s. 6d. To this company and its satellites we in Australia now pay £1,200 a day for telegraphing to and from England; they receive £400,000 a year. That is an enormous sum, and it gives an enormous profit to the company. I know no monopoly in the world that is doing more injury to trade than the concentrated companies represented by the Eastern Telegraph Company and its six or seven satellites. Hon. members opposite do not realise how much our trade has suffered from these high cable charges. Take the case of India; the rate to India has been kept at 4s. a word at a time when the rate to Australia, double the distance, is 3s. 6d. a word. Why is that? Because they have the whip-hand in competition. I once described John Pender and Co. as an octopus which, 487 with its tentacles in every direction, is sucking the life-blood out of the Empire, For the first time now we have an opportunity of establishing an alternative line to Australia. The Pacific cable will stretch over a great extent of water and touch many islands of the Pacific belonging to the British Empire which are now without cable communication. The hon. Member quoted some remarks of Mr. Raikes against the cable. As a matter of fact, Mr. Raikes was one of a board of directors of a company formed to construct the line from Canada to Australia. I was another of the directors. I knew that Mr. Raikes strongly believed in the project, The House of Commons and the country have lately come to the opinion that the cables of the British Empire should become the property of the Government. We shall never have a great Empire until we have cheapened cable communications to the lowest possible limit, and so annihilated distance. We are determined to have the cables of the world in the hands of the Government, for if the Government purchases them the tariff can be reduced by half. The hon. Member referred to the position of Lord Strathcona in connection with this cable project, and declared there was something suspicious in his action. Lord Strathcona is well known everywhere for his high and honourable character. I know that Lord Strathcona dislikes the work, that he has other interests, and that nothing would please him more than to be relieved of it; but he is bound by the Government he represents to occupy a seat on the board. I trust therefore that the hon. Member will withdraw a most unfair, ungenerous, and unfounded statement against the character and reputation of Lord Strathcona. I will leave other speakers to deal with the terms of the contract. All I know is that the Canadian Government are doing the lion's share of the work. I know it is the intention of the Canadian Government, as I hope it is of the English Government also, to construct a cable from England to Canada, and I look forward to the day when we shall have sixpenny telegrams to India, shilling telegrams to Australia, and penny telegrams to America. I am sure that that day will come; and I regard the scheme 488 now before the House as a great step forward towards the breaking up of one of the greatest monopolies the world has ever seen, and towards the consolidation of the Empire. I thank the House for its attention.
§ MR. O'MARA
said that the hon. Member who had just spoken had referred to the fact that the cable companies had a great monopoly; but the House should recollect that the hon. Gentleman had spent the greater portion of his life as a newspaper proprietor in Australia. He did not, however, contend that that had influenced the hon. Member's views. It would be very far from him to attribute any such motive to the hon. Gentleman, who was a most enlightened man; but still the fact that he had been a newspaper proprietor, and had to pay very heavy charges for cables, might have coloured his view somewhat as to the necessity for a competitive scheme. When the hon. Member complained of high charges he forgot to tell the House that for the distance the present charge of 4s. 9d. a word was absolutely the cheapest telegraph charge in the world. The hon. Member did not deny that.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
I decidedly deny it. The cable companies have always treated me with the greatest possible consideration, and I have no feeling at all against them.
§ MR. O'MARA
said that it could not be denied that for the distance 4s. 9d. was the cheapest telegraph charge in the world. Therefore he thought that the complaints of the hon. Member were to a great extent discounted. Of course the scheme before the House had emanated from the Colonial Office. It was a curious coincidence that that evening two schemes exemplifying the latest development of Imperialism should have been under discussion, namely, the Royal Titles Bill and that Bill. In 1897 the Colonial Secretary invited the colonies to consider the advisability of that scheme. A Committee was thereupon appointed, not a single member of which had any practical acquaintance with cable or telegraph work. Two members of the Committee were Englishmen, and 489 four were colonials. Of course the Committee were very carefully chosen, and they reported as favourably as they possibly could in accordance with the wishes of the Colonial Secretary. His point was that the Colonial Secretary was alone responsible for the Committee, and that the scheme was the outcome of his Imperialism. As he had stated, the Committee reported as favourably as they possibly could, but even that Report ought to have opened the eyes of any ordinary business man as to the business side of the scheme. The Committee reported that the scheme would lose in the first year £12,000, after spending in construction between £1,500,000 and £1,800,000; but by assuming an increase of ten per cent. in the business, the Committee stated that the scheme might pay in some indefinite number of years. He desired to lay particular stress on that. In fact, the Report was so unfavourable that it was hung up in the Colonial Office for two and a-half years, and did not see the light of day until the very end of the session, when the Colonial Secretary now tried to smuggle it through without sufficient discussion. With reference to the business aspect of the scheme, there was no doubt whatever that even at the lower rate of 3s. 6d. per word there was not sufficient business to pay for two cables to Australia. In addition to that, it should be remembered that, apart from the scheme before the House, there would be another cable to Australia which was to be laid down by the Eastern Telegraph Company from the Cape. Accordingly, if that scheme were to be carried out, there would be three cables, and they would not be able to pay their working expenses. Of course it would be a great advantage to the colonial Governments, and to colonists generally, to have low cable rates, but he could not see what benefit it would be to the mother country. A few individual firms who had business relations with the colonies might benefit, but he could not see what benefit would be conferred on the taxpayers of the country. Consequently, as far as the reduction of rates was concerned, the colonies would benefit, but England would not, and as for any chance of the scheme ever making a profit, it could not 490 be said by any hon. Member who had studied the official documents that the cable would ever be able to pay its way, or ever be anything but a source of expense to the English Government, and an advantage to the colonies, who never subscribed to any Imperial project whatever.
To his mind there ought to be some give and take when a scheme of this kind was initiated. But there was no give and take in this matter; nor, in fact, was there any give and take in all the exhibitions of Imperialism we had had from the colonies. The Colonial Secretary was now endeavouring to rush through the scheme, but according to the documents he had, only a few years ago, no great wish for it. Writing in 1899 to the Governor General of Canada he said that he did not regard the scheme as urgent. Therefore he could not understand why it should not be postponed until next session. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that the cable would be of comparatively small advantage to England, as one of its terminals would be in Canada and the other in Australia, and it would be administered by the colonies. The right hon. Gentleman also stated that the offer of a subsidy of £20,000 a year for twenty years was fair and generous; and he could not understand what arguments had since been used to induce the Colonial Secretary to exceed that offer. Instead of £20,000 for twenty years, they were now asked to embark on a scheme which would involve the guarantee of an unlimited amount of money, and there was, in his opinion, no possible reason why the offer of the Colonial Secretary in 1897 should have been exceeded. The most ridiculous part of the whole scheme was the creation of a board to control and work the cable. That board was to contain a very large majority of colonial members. England would be represented by three members, Canada by two, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland by two, and New Zealand by one. There would therefore be five colonial members, as against three representatives of the home Government. He asked the House if that was a fair representation for the home Government, which proposed to 491 build the cable without any help from the colonies? He said that it was not. Then it appeared that the board would take sole possession of the cable. It was very remarkable indeed that the property of the home Government should be handed over to a board containing a majority of colonists to be used for the purposes of the colonies. The colonies, of course, would know that any loss would not fall very largely on them, and accordingly they would not use the cable in an ordinary commercial manner; and they would have every possible interest in reducing the rates, possibly to the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Canterbury. The result would be a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds, which the home Government would have to meet. He could not understand how such unbusinesslike machinery had been set up by the Colonial Secretary, who was reputed to have such a businesslike mind. The members of the committee could have no possible idea of how to manage a cable, or how to let out contracts for repairs and other matters. He would have to move several Amendments in Committee to that portion of the scheme in order to protect the property of the taxpayers.
There was one point in regard to the Bill which struck him, and that was that it sought to cover up something which had been already done. In fact it was an Indemnity Bill in connection with contracts which had been illegally entered into. When the resolution was in Committee the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the contracts had been already entered into, although the House of Commons had not approved of them. The Bill also provided for the repayment of temporary loans for the purposes of the cable. That was the first information they had had of any loans in connection with the matter, and it was most illegal. He should like to know what these loans were for, and why they had been raised. They had no knowledge of those matters, and yet they were expected, with their eyes shut, to indemnify the Treasury and the Colonial Secretary for raising money without the sanction of Parliament. They had a right to know how far the House was already committed to the scheme, and how far the Colonial Secretary went 492 without parliamentary sanction to carry out his ideas. He had no intention of impeaching the personal character of the right hon. Gentleman, but it was a strange thing that general suspicion was aroused by any act of his which was not fully disclosed to the public.
§ MR. WILLIAM JOHNSTON; (Belfast, S.)
On a point of order. Is the hon. Member justified in casting imputations of personal motives on the Colonial Secretary?
§ MR. O'MARA
said he did not impute any personal motives to the right hon. Gentleman. His point was that contracts had been illegally entered into, and money illegally raised, before the passage of the Act, and that such transactions had not been disclosed to Members of the House of Commons, although they were now asked to pass an indemnity measure. The right hon. the Colonial Secretary had put forward the claim in support of the subsidy that this would be an all-British line, but he understood that there was an exclusive contract between the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Commercial Cable Company under which telegrams would have to pass over American lines. He therefore wished to know whether this cable was to be worked entirely by British subjects and whether any arrangements had been entered into in regard to rates. The Colonial Secretary had evidently surrendered himself body and soul to the colonies in this matter, and he only wished to say that the scheme was a hairbrained one for providing money to the colonies, who were very well able to look after themselves, for an enterprise which would involve a heavy burden on this country for the next fifty years.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Anyone who has sat in this House for the last three-quarters of an hour must have felt that the hon. Member who has just sat down was not so much concerned with the Bill as in making or insinuating charges against the Colonial Secretary. I do not think it necessary to take up the time of the House by even alluding 493 to these aspersions. I shall deal with the issue before the House—what are, in the opinion of the Government, the merits of the agreement? But before going to that I must say a word as to what has been said with regard to the connection of Lord Strathcona with this Bill. My hon. friend below the gangway said truly that everyone here respects and admires Lord Strathcona as he is respected in Canada. But it is cruel to make use of the fact that he has been selected to represent the Government on the Pacific Cable Board in order to bring charges against him.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think the hon. Member's memory deceives him. I think I need not say that Lord Strathcona's reputation stands too high to be affected by anything the hon. Member has said. The history of this Bill is, shortly, this. For many years the Australian colonies have been complaining of the high rates and of the insufficient service they have received, and they, together with the Dominion of Canada, have been anxious for a further cable connection to be constructed between this country and Australia, via Canada, which should touch only on British soil, and should have all the safeguards which attach to that condition. That is no new idea; it has been the subject of resolutions in two separate colonial conferences. The object of His Majesty's Government has been to secure an all-British cable, which would safeguard our interests in time of war, and in time of peace facilitate British trade, which would come from a reduced tariff. The Eastern Telegraph Company and its allies had, since this proposal had taken practical shape, and since His Majesty's Government had expressed their willingness to co-operate with the colonies in laying this cable, offered terms which they never offered before. They had contended, earlier, that the traffic would 494 not bear any reduction of rates, that it did not pay at the present time, and that they could not afford to make the concessions which the colonies and correspondents in this country desired. I do not think it desirable that our cable communications should remain under the control of one company. It was only when competition had become almost a certainty that the Eastern Telegraph Company, whose subsidies had amounted to over a million sterling, offered concessions they had never contemplated before in order to avert that competition. Is it to be contended that, because we have helped that company so much, we must not help any other enterprise?
I have been asked whether, in agreeing to help to make this cable, we have taken the precautions we would take if we were dealing with a subsidised company as to Government messages and British employees. Of course, British employees would be employed by the Pacific Cable Board. Not being in the position of men running a purely commercial business, the representatives of the British colonies and of the British Government did not require to be tied down in the same way as a commercial company would. In the same way, too, as regards Government messages, it will probably be convenient that they should go at half rates, as they do under most of our cable agreements. But that matter is of much less consequence when the cable is owned by us, for the profits, instead of going to somebody else, as they do when we are dealing with a commercial company, will come back to us. It does not matter so much, therefore, whether we pay the full rates or half rates on Government messages. I have also been asked what payments have already been made. Roughly, they amount to £290,000, due to the contractors in accordance with the condition named in the contract. This is the first time when our great self-governing colonies have approached this country with a proposal for combined action in a great commercial undertaking. They have done it in the hope of promoting inter-British trade, of increasing inter-British intercourse, and I think we would have ill responded to the feeling which animated our countrymen if we had not met their advances in a friendly spirit. His Majesty's Government would 495 be loth at any time to refuse altogether to consider proposals of such a nature seriously put forward by our great colonial Governments. We hold that this country has an interest, if not as great as that of the colonies, at any rate a great interest, in promoting these trade communications and increasing these cable facilities. We hold that the construction of this cable will be of material advantage to us in time of war, and we ask the House to ratify the agreement we have made and to carry out the under taking which has already been ratified by every colonial Government concernedan undertaking which will form, I hope, a lasting and successful monument to the co-operation between the colonies and the mother country. I look upon it as one of the most fruitful and hopeful schemes that has come before us in recent times, and I warmly recommend it to the House.
§ MR. DILLON
A certain bitterness of tone seems to have been imported into the discussion by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury which I do not propose to follow. But I wish to say a few words as to the observations which my hon. friend the Member for Cork has made as to the connection of Lord Strathcona with this cable. All that my hon. friend said was that Lord Strathcona was a director of the Commercial Cable Company, and that, under the circumstances, it would have been better if someone had been placed on the board who had not direct financial profits to be derived from the decisions of the board. What did the Secretary to the Treasury say when he came to justify this extraordinary new departure? That complaints had been made for many years by the colonies of the excessive cable rates. No doubt; but have there been no complaints in Great Britain and Ireland of excessive railway rates? The hon. gentleman further said the object of the Bill was to secure the advantages of British trade which would accrue from reduced cable rates. Might he not turn his attention to the great advantages which would accrue from reduced railway rates? All we contend for in our opposition to this Bill is some more satisfactory explanation of the grounds on which the Government justify this 496 departure from the well-established policy of the country. That policy has been that when under the sanction of the law private capital has been invested in enterprises the Government of the country should not use public money or sanction the use of rates by local authorities to compete with those private undertakings. It is on that ground that London has never been permitted to obtain its own water supply without reference to the water companies. On what logically defensible grounds can the Government justify the application to the industry of cable-laying of a totally different principle to that which is applied to private enterprises at home? Why was it last year when the Government proposed to compete with the Telephone Company the whole of the House of Commons and the country were turned upside down? Even the Minister, one of the ablest on the Treasury Bench, has, I believe, suffered severely in his position because he was inclined to give some effect to the principle of using public funds to compete against a monopoly. I am a strong supporter of municipal enterprise, but it is a new experience for me to hear the Tory party denouncing monopolies and advocating the principle that public funds may be legitimately used to compel those monopolies to reduce their rates. Are we to expect this new policy to be applied to Irish railways, shipping companies, and other matters in which home trade is interested? If the Government have made up their minds to sanction the use of public money for the purpose of freeing the public from so-called monopolies, it would be much better to act on the old maxim that charity begins at home. It is said that the Eastern Cable Company is a monopoly, but that is not so in the true sense of the word.
§ MR. DILLON
Then surely the Government can give other companies equal rights. It is not a monopoly to so great an extent as that of the railway companies of this country. To justify such a proposal on the ground that they are beating down a monopoly is a most 497 unprecedented course for a Government to take. According to a letter written by Lord Tweeddale to the Colonial Office on 19th June, 1899, Mr. Leonard Courtney, when Secretary to the Treasury, said—It would be highly inexpedient to encourage on light grounds competition against a company in the position of the Eastern Telegraph Company, which has embarked much capital in existing lines.If ever there was a man who was not a friend of monopolies, it was Mr. Leonard Courtney, and yet that is the view held by him.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON
I assure the hon. Member that we cannot construct a telegraph line to India or Egypt, because of the monopoly of the Eastern Telegraph Company.
§ MR. DILLON
Then let the hon. Member apply to the Government to abolish that monopoly. If the Government are so enthusiastically in favour of abolishing monopolies and reducing rates, why do they not start a steamship line in opposition to the P. and O. Company? What is the distinction between a steamship company and a cable company? In view of the necessity of manning the British Navy, there is much more to be said in favour of establishing a steamship service with the colonies, in order to give British trade the great advantage of cheap freights, than can be said for the present proposal. Even-argument in favour of establishing this Pacific Cable applies with even stronger
force to the setting up by the Government of steamship lines. The Secretary of State for the Colonies, in reply to a deputation, said—
If any Government were mad enough, or the Cabinet were inclined to allow any Government to spend the money of the taxpayers in order to enter into competition for the purpose of destroying private industry, the position would be a dangerous one.
§ That is precisely what the Government are at now. Apparently the Government have gone "mad," because, according to the provisions of this Bill, the House of Commons is asked to sanction the very thing which the Colonial Secretary described as "madness." I maintain that the proposal now submitted to the House of Commons is entirely without precedent, and is revolutionary in its character, and I think we are entitled to demand that if such principles are to be admitted at all they should first be applied at home, so that we might obtain relief from the railway and other excessive rates which interfere so grievously with our trade.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 167; Noes, 77. (Division List No. 459.)499
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J (Birm.||Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. H.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Chamberlain, J. Austin (Worc'r||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn E.|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud||Charming, Francis Allston||Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir. J (Manch'r|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Chapman, Edward||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Charrington, Spencer||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Arrol, Sir William||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Foster, Sir Michael (Lond. Univ.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S W|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Gardner, Ernest|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Cranborne, Viscount||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Crossley, Sir Savile||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)|
|Bignold, Arthur||Dickson, Charles Scott||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon|
|Bigwood, James||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Goschen, Hn. Geo. Joachim|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Dorington, Sir John Edward||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bull, William James||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Grant, Corrie|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs|
|Cavendish, V C. W (Derbyshire||Duke, Henry Edward||Greville, Hon. Ronald|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Groves, James Grimble|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||MacIver, Daxid (Liverpool)||Round, James|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Mid'x||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Rutherford, John|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'd||Majendie, James A. H.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Mather, William||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos Myles|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H E. (Wigt'n||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Mitchell, William||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East V.|
|Higginbottom, S. W.||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Smith, H C (N'rth'mb, Tyneside|
|Hogg, Lindsay||More, Rbt. Jasper (Shropshire||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Holland, Wm. Henry||Morgan, David J (Walth'mst'w||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Spear, John Ward|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Hoult, Joseph||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Strachey, Edward|
|Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham)||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Parker, Gilbert||Talbot, Rt Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Parkes, Ebenezer||Tennant, Harold John|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pemberton, John S. G.||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Keswick, William||Pierpoint, Robert||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Law, Andrew Bonar||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Lawson, John Grant||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lee, Arthur H (Hants. Fareham||Plummer, Walter R.||Vincent, Col Sir C E H (Sheffield)|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Pretyman, Ernest George||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Purvis, Robert||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Pym, C. Guy||Wills, Sir Frederick|
|Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesh'm||Randles, John S.||Wilson, Fred W. (Norfolk, Mid.|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S||Reid, James (Greenock)||Wodehouse. Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Rensbaw, Charles Bine||Wood, Sir J. T. (Huddersfield),|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Rentoul, James Alexander||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsm'th)||Rigg, Richard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Macartney, Rt Hn W. G. Ellison||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Macdona, John Dimming||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Kelly, James (Rosc'mm'n, N.|
|Bell, Richard||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||O'Malley, William|
|Boland, John||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||O'Mara, James|
|Boyle, James||Joyce, Michael||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Leamy, Edmund||O'Shee, James John|
|Burns, John||Lundon, W.||Partington, Oswald|
|Caldwell, James||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Reddy, M.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||M'Fadden Edward||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Cogan, Denis J.||M'Govern, T.||Redmond, Wm. (Clare)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||M'Kenna, Reginald||Roche, John|
|Crean, Eugene||Morton, Edw. J. C. (Devonport)||Scott, Charles P. (Leigh)|
|Cullinan, J.||Moss, Samuel||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Daly, James||Murnaghan, George||Sullivan, Donal|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Murphy, John||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Delany, William||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Thomas, J A (Gl'morgan, Gower|
|Dillon, John||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.||Thompson, Dr E C (Monagh'n N.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Duffy, William J.||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||White, Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Field, William||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||White, Patrick (Meath, N.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Whiteley, George (Yorks, W. R.|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Doherty, William|
|Hammond, John||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Captain Donelan and Mr. Patrick O Brien.|
|Harwood, George||O'Dowd, John|
§ Question put accordingly, "That the I Bill be now read a second time."500
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 183;. Noes, 59. (Division List No. 460.)503
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F||Anson, Sir William Reynell||Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Arrol, Sir William||Balfour. Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r)|
|Balfour, Capt, C. B. (Hornsey)||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W. (Leeds||Harwood, George||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bell, Richard||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Heaton, John Henniker||Purvis, Robert|
|Bignold, Arthur||Helme, Norval Watson||Pym, C. Guy|
|Bigwood, James||Higginbottom, S. W.||Randles, John S.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Hogg, Lindsay||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Holland, William Henry||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Bull, William James||Hornby, Sir William Henry||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Burns, John||Horniman, Frederick John||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge|
|Caldwell, James||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Rigg, Richard|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hoult, Joseph||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Chas. Thomson|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Houston, Robert Paterson||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Gayzer, Sir Charles William||Howard, J. (Kent, Faversham)||Round, James|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Rutherford, John|
|Chapman, Edward||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Charrington, Spencer||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Keswick, William||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Law, Andrew Bonar||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Lawson, John Grant||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Colston, Chas Edw. H. Athole||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Smith, A. H. (Hertford, East)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Smith, Hn. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Leveson-Gower, Fredk. N. S.||Spear, John Ward|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Stanley, E. J. (Somerset)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.)||Strachey, Edward|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf. Univ.|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Tennant, Harold John|
|Dyke. Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W. G. E.||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Macdona, John Cumming||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Tomlinson, W. E. Murray|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||M'Calmont Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Tritton, Charles Ernest|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||M'Killop, J. (Stirlingshire)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Majendie, James A. H.||Vincent, Col Sir C. E. H. (Sheffield|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Foster, Sir Michael (Lond. Univ.||Mitchell, William||White, Luke (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W.)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Whiteley, George (Yorks, W. R.|
|Gardner, Ernest||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-un.-Lyne|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Wills, Sir Frederick|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Moss, Samuel||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid.)|
|Grant, Corrie||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)|
|Greene, W. Raymond- (Cambs.||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf'd|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Groves, James Grimble||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Partington, Oswald||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||Pemberton, John S. G.||Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G. (Midd'x||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard|
|Hardy, L. (Kent. Ashford)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N. E.)||Crean, Eugene||Flynn, James Christopher|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Cullinan, J.||Gilhooly, James|
|Boland, John||Daly, James||Hammond, John|
|Boyle, James||Delany, William||Hardie, J. Keir (Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Dillon, John||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Doogan, P. C.||Healy, Timothy Michael|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Duffy, William J.||Joyce, Michael|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Field, William||Leamy, Edmund|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lundon, W.|
|MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Reddy, M.|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||O'Doherty, William||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|M'Fadden, Edward||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|M'Govern, T.||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Roche, John|
|Murnaghan, George||O'Dowd, John||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Murphy, John||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Sullivan, Donal|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)||Thompson, Dr E C Monagh'n, N|
|Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)||O'Malley, William||White, Patrick (Meath, N.)|
|Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||O'Mara, James|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Capt. Donelan and Mr. Patrick O'Brien.|
|O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid||O'Shee, James John|
|O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
Question, "That those words be there inserted," put and agreed to.