§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 31st May."— (Sir A. Acland-Hood.)
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
called attention to the effect of the Rules under which they had now been working for some time. In his opinion the time had come for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the subject, which was of paramount importance to the efficiency of the House. Had they had such a Committee at the outset the Prime Minister would have been saved a good deal of trouble and very valuable information could have been obtained from the Speaker, from the Leader of the House, and from the Leader of the Opposition. Only within the last day or two they had had illustrations of what he considered to be the unsatisfactory character of one of the new Rules, under which it had been found possible to bring in a Bill, making a most important change in the Lunacy Law of this country, without a word of explanation from the Attorney-General, who was responsible for the measure, which was the outcome of a debate in Committee a few nights previously. Personally he had never known a case of such speedy legislation, and he did think the House should be informed of the nature of the Government proposal. There were many Members who found it most inconvenient to be at the House at two o'clock—especially those gentlemen who were in business or professional life, while there were others who found the luncheon hour at home was the only opportunity 370 they had of talking with their families, and who certainly preferred a cut of mutton off the family joint to a dry biscuit at the House. The House of Commons ought not to be a place accessible only to men of leisure who wished to enlarge their social circle. Under present conditions it was impossible for any man carrying on commercial or City life, or practising in the Law Courts, to come to the House before four or five o'clock, when the interesting questions were over. The only thing which worked well in the new Rules was the arrangement for Motions for Adjournment. This whole question was one of supreme importance not only to the comfort of Members, but to the dignity of the House. He confessed that he was not a week-ender, but what he really used to like very much was the adjournment in the middle of the week, and he thought it would be found that the officials of the House would be very glad to get back to the old arrangement. Four or five long and harassing days consecutively placed a great strain on Ministers and officials, for which he thought the week-end was no relief. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman, who had always paid such courteous attention to appeals from hon. Members, would consent to the appointment of this Committee.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
The hon. Member opposite made so courteous an appeal to me on the subject of the new Rules and their working that I feel constrained to rise at once, not to discuss the matter at great length, but shortly to indicate the view which I have always held and still hold upon the subject. Let me say, in the first place, that I think there is always a danger that those who are under a new system feel acutely any evils which it may carry with it, while they have completely forgotten, naturally, the pinch of the old Rules, the old state of things, from which the new state of things has enabled them to escape. The hon. Gentleman's first point related to the hour at which we commence business. I have several times indicated, in answer to Questions, that I do not regard that as a fundamental or 371 essential part of the system of the new Rules, and that I should not regard some alleviation—I suppose that is the word which the right hon. Gentleman would like—of the rigid Rule which brings us down here for Questions at a quarter-past two as in any way fundamentally altering the system which this House adopted three years ago. But I must frankly remind him that there are difficulties in the way. In the first place, I think the whole House will admit that the diminution in the number of oral Questions is really an advantage to everybody. How has that diminution come about? It has partly come about through a modification in our old Rules to which I think no objection is taken, the modification which enables a certain number of Questions to be put unstarred, so that a Minister can give a written answer instead of an oral answer. I wish I could be quite sure that it is all due to that. I am not positive that the domestic considerations to which the hon. Gentleman delicately alluded at one part of his speech, which keep, so he told us, a family man at home at the hour at which Questions take place, may not induce a certain number of Gentlemen to put Questions unstarred which they would be more inclined to put across the floor of the House if they could at once have conversation with their wives and children and come down to the House in time. Therefore I am not sure that this kind of natural protection, which diminishes full free trade in Questions, may not have some indirect advantages for the general convenience of the House.
But there is another consideration to which I would specially call the hon. Gentleman's attention and the attention of other Members. It is the need of having at our afternoon sitting, before half-past seven, really adequate time in which to hold a debate of even considerable importance. If the reforms, or anything like the reforms, of my hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Chelmsford Division of Essex, who has been a protagonist in the movement for short speeches, were carried out, or if apart from any specific Rule, hon. Members would consent in a general debate to cut down their speeches to that part of the subject in which they took special interest, and in which they might not be absolutely certain that they were re- 372 peating things that had been said before and anticipating things that would inevitably be said after, then I think we might shorten our sittings. But there seems some absolutely inevitable tendency in human nature—I do not at all pretend that I am free from it—there seems some inevitable tendency for every speaker to survey the whole subject from beginning to end, to deal with the commonplaces, which are commonplaces because they are common to every speaker on the subject, instead of devoting himself to what, from his own interest in it, would probably have some novelty to the House, welling, as it were, out from the heart of the speaker and not merely from his memory. But if that were done, either by the imposition of an artificial Rule or by the self-discipline of the 670 Gentlemen who compose this Assembly, then I think we might shorten our sittings. But I would venture seriously to suggest, both to independent Members and to any Gentlemen who may hereafter have to reconsider the Rules of the House, not rashly to endeavour unduly to cut short what is the longest and most important part of the day's Parliamentary work. The hon. Gentleman told us, and I have no doubt with some truth, that the early meeting was especially burdensome to professional men —lawyers and others—who have occupations which require their attendance in their places of business. I will make two observations on that. In the first place, I would point out that that only deals with London. A very large number, I suppose in fact the majority, of Members of this House who are engaged in business are not engaged in business in London. Their home and their place of business are in the provinces, and, make what hours of Parliamentary business you choose, you cannot wholly meet their case. The nearest thing to meeting their case that has yet been arrived at is that very week-end arrangement to which the hon. Gentleman, I think, raises some objections. Many Members whose business is not in London but in the provinces have informed me that, although, of course, that arrangement does not enable them to go day by day to their offices, it does enable them, as it were, to keep an eye week by week 373 upon their offices; and a large number of people who cannot afford a house in London and in the provinces, and who desire that their families should live in their homes in the provinces, are enabled to carry out that domestic life for which the hon. Member, from an exterior point of view pleads this afternoon, solely because the Friday arrangement has been instituted under our new Rules. Although I admit that it is a balance of advantage and disadvantage, although I entirely agree with the hon. Member that the strain of four days consecutively is greater than the strain of four full days divided by a half-day, I think the other circumstances to which I have adverted really weigh the balance down to the side which the new Rules favour.
As regards the actual continuous labour of Parliamentary work, I, from the accident of a particular situation, have perhaps as much opportunity of measuring it as any other man in this House, because during the autumn session on the Education Bill there was no other business before the House, there was no relief to the Minister in charge of the Bill, and I had to conduct that Bill—not an easy Bill to conduct, as those who remember our discussions will admit— I had to conduct it five days in succession, not one week or two weeks, but many weeks successively, and, although I admit that the strain was very great, the fact that I am still alive to address the hon. Gentleman shows that it need not necessarily be fatal. There is one other point connected with his objection to early afternoon sittings to which I may call his attention. He seems to suppose that the early hours of the afternoon are the most difficult hours for Members to attend, and that the later hours are easier. As a matter of fact I am informed that the attendance is greater in the afternoon, and even in the early hours of the afternoon, than it is at the Evening Sitting, from which I come to the conclusion that the domestic attractions to which the hon. Gentleman refers are of a high character. Many Gentlemen find it difficult to return to the House at nine o'clock unless there is some special excitement or some hope of an interesting scene such as filled the House to overflowing on a very recent occasion. About the Evening Sitting, 374 may I answer one argument which has been touched upon, but not pressed, that it is very hard to get Members back to the Chamber in time. The hon. Member said the Whips have a most laborious task. I do not suppose that the Whips on either side of the House have an easy time. They never have had in my Parliamentary career, but the removal of the old difficulty of the dinner hour, the crowding into quite inadequate dining rooms, the having a count always moved between fish and joint, and the absolute giving up of any power of change of scene and surroundings during the course of a long sitting, outweighs any difficulties—though the difficulties are quite real—incident to the recommencement of business at nine o'clock.
That, I think, deals broadly with most of the objections which the hon. Gentleman feels to the new system of things. He ended by asking a Committee. There had been a great many Committees, no doubt, in the business of this House, and voluminous evidence, never acted on, has been taken by those Committees. After all, a Committee of this House usually meets and deliberates in order that it may inform the House on a subject on which the House itself has not adequate means of information, but the Rules of the House are perhaps the one subject on which all the House has adequate means of information. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] My hon. friend thinks hon. Members have not the means of full information, and he thinks that if a Committee sat and reported they would have that information. How would they have it? In a Blue-book. If they have not adequate means of information now it is because they do not read Blue-books or other official documents in which the whole case is contained. But in truth there is something better than Blue-books and Reports of Committees, and that is the personal experience of Members themselves. That experience is no doubt apt to be warped by circumstances to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. We feel the evils which are upon us, and forget the evils of which we have been relieved, but I do not think anything would be gained if the hon. Gentleman's Committee were granted. I have a more selfish reason, not necessarily selfish from a personal 375 point of view but another reason for regretting such a Committee unless the necessity were proved. Who is to sit upon that Committee? Mr. Speaker would no doubt be asked if he would consent to give evidence, but I do not know whether it is in accordance with precedent that he should be a member. The members would have to include the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman missed the earlier part of my remark. I was explaining to the House the absolute necessity that he and I should co-operate with the work of any Committee if its work is to be worth anything. I pay to our abilities that delicate compliment. But the labour would be very great. The Committee, I suppose, would be a Select Committee of eighteen, and must contain a very large number of the most important Members of the House. I confess that, unless the necessity for such a Committee were clearly proved I should personally feel the burden to be almost more than could be borne. I have already Committees more than enough on which in addition to my other work my presence is absolutely necessary. That is a small personal consideration which I do not really press upon the House. What I do press upon the House is that I believe the new Rules work well, that a Committee could not help us greatly to improve them, that, on the whole Members of the House may make themselves acquainted with all the relevant circumstances, and that a Committee could do very little to aid them in coming to a final or satisfactory conclusion.
*MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said his right hon. friend had treated the subject with great good humour and some self-confidence. He said it was possible for every Member to acquaint himself with the Rules of the House. He himself entirely demurred to that, and he would give the right hon. Gentleman one instance to convince him that it could not be done. There was a Standing Order consisting of a 376 nominative and no verb. That was a Standing Order which dealt with perhaps the most important thing a Standing Order could provide for, namely cases of disorder in this House. No attempt had been made to complete it; it still remained in a truncated form, and no human being could understand either what it was or what it might become. The right hon. Gentleman must remember too, that there were first of all the Standing Orders of the House, and secondly the lex non scripte— the unwritten law of the House, which was really by far the most important part. He did say, and he thought anybody who knew the House would bear him out, that there was the very greatest difficulty in informing oneself as to the unwritten law, which was just as binding as the Standing Orders. He did not think anyone present could tell off-hand what was and what was not proper to be put into a Question, one of the most usual and apparently the most simple of things. There were many other things in regard to which hon. Members would be in very great doubt. Moreover the Rules seemed liable to infinite change. A practice had grown up of declaring suddenly, and without notice being given to Members of the House, that certain things which had always been done had fallen into desuetude, and could therefore no longer be done. He was not then challenging the propriety of that, but pointing out the complete uncertainty that resulted, and the consequent impossibility of knowing the Rule. When, for example, a Member proposed that the Clerk at the Table take down the words of another Member, he was suddenly told that it could not be done as the practice had fallen into desuetude. He defied anybody to have had any previous knowledge of that. The Clerk of the House had laid on the Table a new book containing the Rules of the House, or rather his views of the Rules of the House—a series of excellent pious opinions, but which derived their authority from and referred for it to May's text-book. Part of them, no doubt, referred to the Standing Orders. He believed it would be out of order to say anything derogatory of the Standing Orders, but if it were proper to do so, he would say that some 377 of them were contradictory of each other, and that some of them were almost absurd in themselves. He would not, however, say that. The Rules were confusing to the ordinary Member. He had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the Rules of the House, but he was in the greatest uncertainty constantly. Sometimes questions arose with respect to which he felt wholly unable to say what the position was, and but for the assistance received from Mr. Speaker about points of order no Member would be able to see his way through the maze.
He did not feel the objection which the right hon. Gentleman had to the appointment of a Committee. In his opinion a Committee would be able to take the common law and the Standing Orders and coordinate them—and would thus render inestimable service to the House. In regard to the new Rules the ladies were against the right hon. Gentleman to a woman. By these Rules he had destroyed London social life. The arrangements for Wednesday which formerly obtained had been abolished, and a great loss to Parliament was the result. Wednesday, when it was a private Members' day with its evening off, previously stood between the two first and the two last working days of the week. It used to be the day when they stood back from the picture and looked at the general effect. On that day consultations took place between Members of the same side and also between Members of different sides behind the Chair, and hon. Members came to useful compromises which were all for the benefit of Bills when they became Acts. Wednesday had not only been abolished Parliamentarily, but it had been abolished socially. Hostesses used to be able to count on Parliamentary diners on Wednesday, but they could no longer do that now that hon. Members had to attend the House on that evening. The new Rules had indeed professedly substituted Friday for Wednesday in the Parliamentary sense, but not socially. Everybody went out of town for the week-end. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Well, a very large number did. Sunday in London had consequently become a desert. He well remembered in his 378 youth, the delightful Sunday afternoons for political gossip and the interchange of opinion. These had been abolished, to the great injury of this House and society; but that was nothing as compared with the injury to the Government itself under the new Rules. On Monday Members had not yet fully come back from their week-end holiday, and it could be seen that, being therefore always short of support on Monday, the Government dared not put down anything important for that day. On Friday, which was now the private Members' day, the Government men had gone off, and the Government had been repeatedly obliged to surrender in a way which under other circumstances they would not have done, to very dangerous and doubtful proposals embodied in private Members' Bills. Every Monday and every Friday was thus a dangerous day, and on every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday the Government was in danger of being beaten daily between nine and half-past ten or eleven, and constantly had to put up Members to make speeches till their men got back from dinner. That was a condition of things which must be very trying to the Whips, and which would only be endurable to a Government with a majority of over a hundred. He would be very sorry for a Government which came to the House under the new Rules with a majority of under fifty. The new Rules had introduced the week-end, and had impaired in other ways the working power and the efficiency of the House in dealing with serious Bills. Take the dinner-hour, for instance. As long as the House went on sitting, as under the old Rules it did, with only an unavowed, unofficial, short interval for dinner taken when most convenient, then hon. Members thought it a duty to remain on the whole night. But now that, under the new Rules, the House rose and they were turned out at half-past seven o'clock, they went home, and the effect was that once hon. Members went home, the domestic charm was so great that they did not come back to the House. Who would come back, even if the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight was to speak, except from a strong sense of duty, or that the Whip of the Government said that if you remained longer 379 at home the Government would be defeated or only saved by a narrow majority? That emptied the House and kept it empty, which was a very serious state of things.
But there were other even more serious defects in the management of the House. One was the constant diminution of the initiative of private Members, which had now reached such a point that practically all initiative was denied except to the Government, and that nothing could be debated unless brought forward by the Government. As a matter of fact, the private Member had little opportunity of raising what he thought were most important subjects for Parliamentary discussion. Under the present Parliamentary system the private Member had really and truly only three chances. First of all he might put down an Amendment to the Address. But when once the Address was passed that chance was gone for ever. Then, if he were lucky enough to succeed in the ballot, he might—though he himself had never been able to do it—put down a Motion for a Wednesday or Tuesday. But that was not altogether satisfactory, as they saw the previous night, when they had a private Member's motion superseded by the Prime Minister, whose Motion was actually a Motion of confidence in himself! Then there was the chance of moving the Adjournment. Formerly Members had the right to move the Adjournment of the House at any time in order to call attention to matters of urgent public importance. But that right had been much curtailed. It had besides been rendered completely useless by the monstrous practice of hon. Members putting down Motions on the Notice Paper on any subject that could interest any human being. He had been looking that day as to what subject was open to debate. He did not see any subject of any public interest which was not blocked out from an Adjournment Motion by notices of Motion not intended ever to be debated, and only put down to prevent debate. Consequently it was not possible to discuss preferential duties, War Office reform, the invasion of Tibet, Chinese labour, Macedonia, etc. The Notice Paper was covered in this manner, not honestly, but absolutely prevent private Members using their 380 rights to originate discussion on these questions. The whole effect of this scheme was that, practically, private Members had scarcely any opportunity of initiating discussion, and that the whole initiative was left to the Government. What the Government wanted to be discussed was discussed, and what they were not anxious to discuss could be put off indefinitely by adjournment blocking Motions set down by their friends. And their friends set them down. The hon. Member for Peckham, he observed, had an interesting Motion on the Paper to call attention to the British Mission to Tibet. The hon. Member had put that down not because he cared for Tibet more than other Members, but to prevent anyone moving the Adjournment of the House on that question. He commended these abuses of the forms of the House to his right hon. friend; and he earnestly besought him to take some opportunity to restore the very few and small chances left to private Members, by getting rid of the blocking Motion. The efficacy of this House depended on its Rules, and it was highly important that they should be put right, if wrong. He thought that, if not a large, a small Committee of Members of the House would be willing to give much of their time to make suggestions for the consolidation of the common law, the traditional law, and the Rules of the House. As a matter of fact, they did not know what were the Rules of the House, and how new Members could even put down a Question on the Paper in proper form was always a mystery to him. This matter was exceedingly important, and something ought to be done in regard to it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The observations of the hon. Member have fallen upon me with the refreshing effect of a shower on the parched grass. We have been, in my opinion, suffering from the new Rules ever since they have been enacted. I am delighted to hear that the hon. Member seems to agree with me on many points. I confess, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman will remember that I have been from the first a heretic as to his main proposals. I am an anti-two-o'clocker, an anti-dinner-hourer, an anti-week-ender; and I believe that all these 381 three alterations have had a most pernicious effect on the business and on the tone of the House. I entirely admit their blessed effect on the comfort of the individual Members. The dinner-hour is an enormous addition to the comfort and possibly to the domestic happiness of Members of Parliament; but, after all, we ought, I think, to have something higher than that in view. The right hon. Gentleman proclaimed when he introduced these Rules—and it was quite natural and most creditable to him that he should entertain that view—that as the hon. Members of the House had such heavy duties to perform, it was necessary to suit their personal convenience to a larger extent than was previously done. I admit the force of the argument, if it is consistent with the maintenance of the old traditions of the House of Commons. I do not think it is. I think the dinner-hour breaks up a long discussion, for instance, in Committee on a particular Bill, and gives obstructives, if there are any, a fresh wind, and makes it easier to obstruct. Then the two o'clock hour of meeting is, by universal consent, most inconvenient not only to men of business, but also to the ordinary mortal. It curtails his morning, which is the most important time for him, and interferes with the ordinary domestic arrangements as to the mid-day meal; and I think we see the effect of it in the afternoon audiences in the House. As to the week-end, it does the same thing, but on a much larger scale. It interrupts the life we lead here. Men go away, and again I am compelled to admit that it is an enormous convenience to the man engaged in business; but we must not consider the convenience or happiness of individual Members. It breaks up our ordinary routine, and then we get to think—we poor weak mortals as we are—that the duties and business of the House are almost a secondary matter. I say that the first business of every Member of the House should be Parliamentary, and whatever we may do to ease the burden we should not do anything to break down that feeling.
I will not go into the detail of the matter so skilfully dwelt upon by the hon. Member opposite. The elimination of the saving Wednesday, which broke the monotonous work of night after night, 382 the attendance here which took away from us the night which was a great convenience for purposes which were not necessarily Parliamentary, but yet of public use—meetings and public functions which Members of Parliament have to give attention to—I pass from all these to the other question to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. We have had a very notable instance before us within the last few days. I mean the extraordinary position the House of Commons is in if one of its Members puts down an undated, indeterminate, and indefinite Motion. He can go away to fish for salmon, or on a yachting cruise, or pay a visit to South Africa for months, and he has completely checkmated the House of Commons. I do not quite agree with the hon. Gentleman as to the idea of restoring perfect freedom, almost amounting to anarchy, as to the moving the Adjournment of the House in the ordinary way.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I did not suggest that the old Rule should be revived. I suggested that a stop should be put to the practice of blocking Motions.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN
What I say is that we do require some check on the irregular method of calling attention to urgent subjects. But there is one thing on which we require no check, and, if I am not mistaken, we are likely to suffer from it to-day; and that is, the putting down a pretended Motion by a Member which would prevent any other Member from calling attention to that subject. That applies not only to the irregular Motions of Adjournment of the House, but to the specific periodical Adjournment Motions for the holidays at Easter and Whitsuntide, which are the most necessary safety-valves, and opportunities afforded to the House of being able, periodically, as part of their regular and proper duties, to call attention to and provoke discussion upon any new current events and the general policy and conduct of the Government. We have an opportunity for discussing important matters, first of all in the debate on the Address, then on the Motion for the Easter holidays, then on the similar Motion with regard to the Whitsuntide holidays, and 383 finally, on the Appropriation Bill. So that the House of Commons was furnished with at least four occasions when it was free to range over public topics, when Members could express their opinions, and obtain information from the Government.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I have now passed away from the new Rules, and am dealing with another subject. I say that those opportunities were an invaluable possession to the House of Commons, which it was in the interest of the country to preserve, and I submit that it is very desirable that some restriction should be placed upon the power of the individual Member to prevent the House of Commons from exercising that privilege, even if we allowed to the individual Member a little more latitude in the way of checking those irregular methods to which reference has been made.
§ *SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Lynn Regis had performed a public service in calling attention to the scandal of the House of Commons being prevented, by blocking Motions, from discussing matters of the most urgent public importance. It was monstrous that a new departure such as the reversal of the Government policy in Tibet should not be open to the consideration of the House of Commons. That particular case was even stronger than that of native labour in the Transvaal, because, being paid for by India, it was not a subject that could be raised in Committee of Supply or on the Appropriation Bill; consequently, the House was reduced to the one opportunity afforded by the Indian Budget. Such a position was grotesquely absurd. The House had been discussing the new Rules, partly because it was unable to deal with the matters it desired to discuss, but there were matters more important than the abstract consideration of the new Rules and the convenience of Members, to which a little time might well be devoted. Government business was in an unprecedented condition. On 384 the previous evening the discussion of the fiscal question had been prevented on the ground that it was more important to proceed with the business mentioned in the King's Speech. It was rather late in the session to talk about proceeding to deal with the business of the King's Speech. For the first time, he believed, in the history of the House of Commons, the Whitsuntide Recess had arrived without one of the Bills mentioned in the Speech from the Throne having entered upon the Committee stage. On the Easter Adjournment the Leader of the Opposition complained of the backward condition of those Bills; the position now was relatively worse, because, although a few of the measures had been introduced, with two exceptions they had been brought in under the "ten minutes" Rule or simply presented at the Table, and consequently had not been discussed at all. The result would be that, with the late starting of the session and the longer holidays, business would be crowded into the end of the session, the Twelve O'clock Rule would be continually suspended, the "compartment closure" would be invoked; and all these unconstitutional proceedings would have been forced upon the House not by obstruction, but by the backward condition of Government business. The first two Bills mentioned in the King's Speech —the Aliens Bill and the Licensing Bill— would take a considerable time, and while no one denied that a Valuation Bill was long overdue, it would be generally admitted that there was no chance of the Bill on that subject passing this session. With regard to the Housing of the Working Classes (Ireland) Bill, there had been a distinct breach of a pledge to the Irish Members, because they were promised last year that it should be one of the earliest and principal measures of the present session, but since its introduction under the "ten minutes" Rule, nothing had been heard of it. The Shops Bill had been merely presented, but the Compensation Bill was not even drafted. It was true that two Bills of importance not mentioned in the King's Speech had been introduced. The Anglo-French Agreement would not occupy much time, but the Welsh Coercion Bill would certainly be very strenuously fought.
385 The Government had urged the necessity of proceeding with these Bills as a reason for giving the go-by to other subjects to which the country attached the greatest importance, and which were in the minds of the people throughout the Empire. Since the Whitsuntide Adjournment last year and the 15thMay preceding, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham declared that the Empire could be kept together only by dealing with these fiscal questions, a most dangerous disruptive element had been introduced into the Empire, which ought to be dealt with either by the House of Commons after full debate or by the country at a general election. It was impossible to shut one's eyes to the fact that while Australia and India were outside this question, it naturally excited a deep interest in the Dominion of Canada; and no one who understood the politics of the Dominion could deny that an element of danger had been introduced into the relations between the British Empire and the United States through the raising of this question. A Canadian policy was now being put forward for adoption which was not heard of a few years ago. Alternatives were suggested, such as an arrangement between Canada and the United States, which would be inconsistent with the position of the former in the British Empire, on the one hand, and proposals which the Prime Minister had declared would never be accepted by the working classes of this country, on the other. The Prime Minister stated at Sheffield that the working classes had had burnt into them by the sufferings of the past the same feeling as the French showed at the revolution of '89, and he plainly indicated the opinion that they would never submit to the taxation of food. In consequence of a blocking Motion he could not discuss the question of the taxation of food, but he submitted that it was the duty of the Government either to allow Parliament to judge of the question or to permit the country to express its opinion at a dissolution. As far as he understood their speeches, supporters of the Government were unwilling to go to the country because of the fear that the nation would go wrong on the question of South Africa and Ireland. There was a desire to keep the dead hand of the Tory Party over the Liberal Party, 386 and to prevent the Liberal Party coming into its natural turn of office, unless hon. Members opposite were allowed to dictate their terms. The Government, doubtless, had a right to avoid a dissolution as long as they were supported by a majority of the House of Commons, but they had no right whatever to prevent Parliament from threshing out this question and of expressing its opinion—an opinion which he believed would be in accordance with the views which they on the Opposition side of the House entertained.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
asked whether the Prime Minister could tell the House if, under the altered conditions in Tibet, he was still able to renew the pledges given a short time ago that nothing would induce the Indian Government to establish a protectorate in Tibet nor send an expedition to Lhasa.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to say that the hon. Member will be precluded from discussing that question in consequence of the Motion that now stands Paper.
§ SIR EDWARD SASSOON (Hythe)
drew the attention of the President of the Local Government Board to the increasing and embarrassing difficulties confronting local authorities in their efforts to abate the nuisance caused by the growth in the midst of popular resorts and in populous districts of consumptive homes or so-called sanatoria entirely unaccompanied by checks and safeguards suggested by the precautions of medical science. The local authorities had either to choose between acquiescence in the present state of things or embark upon costly litigation. Tuberculosis was one of the most infectious diseases that medical science had to contend against, and he pressed the right hon. Gentleman either to obtain further Parliamentary powers to deal with this great evil, or, if that was not possible, to indicate to the local authorities what steps should be taken to abate it.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL (Yorkshire, Cleveland)
asked whether he would be in order in discussing Article 3 of the Anglo-Chinese Convention published that day, 387 particularly the establishment of an "emigration agency" to be erected and fitted up by the British Government "at their expense."
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said that under the Rules as they stood the hon. Member could not raise the question. The notice of Motion on the Paper would cover all questions of the conditions of service and of transportation affecting Chinese labourers for the Transvaal.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
urged that since the Motion had been placed on the Paper those new points in the Convention had arisen.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
asked whether the House was not entitled to raise the agreement which had been made to spend money before it had been voted by the House in Committee of Supply.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
said that the question could also be discussed on the Motion on the Paper. It would be competent for the hon. Member to ask whether he money was being spent and what was? he authority for the spending of it.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said the condition in which the House found itself under blocking Motions of this character showed the immediate necessity of reconsidering the Rules of Procedure. It was scandalous that the blocking Motion put down upon the Paper weeks previously should preclude the House from discussing a treaty, copies of which had been circulated only that day. He wished to know if the money would be voted by the House of Commons.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON, Warwick and Leamington)
said that the expense would be the expense of the Transvaal Government, who would in turn charge the importer.
§ *MR. HERBERT SAMUEL
said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would be able to state from what source the money was in the first instance to be found; and, if it were to be voted by the House of Commons, under what Vote it would appear, and what opportunity for 388 the discussion of the question would-be given. The statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the expense would be the expense of the Transvaal Government was not stated in the Convention. There it was clearly stated that the British Government would have to pay for the construction and maintenance of the dwellings in which the Chinese labourers were to be kept in strict confinement. As, however, he was precluded from discussing the merits of the question, he would revert to another matter mentioned by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. There were certain Bills mentioned in the King's Speech to which many of his hon. friends attached great importance. He would mention particularly the Shop Hours Bill, the Workmen's Compensation Act Amendment Bill, and the Public Health Bill. The Shop Hours Bill and the Workmen's Compensation Act Amendment Bill were the only measures of social reform relating to England which had been promised; they were to a great extent non-contentious, and if opposed at all would probably be opposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Undoubtedly, however, the Workmen's Compensation Act Amendment Bill, although non-contentious, as it would probably prove, as regarded its main principle, would require time for the consideration of its details. He expressed the hope that all the measures he had mentioned would be pressed forward at an early date. As regarded the housing question it would be remembered that an Act was passed last session enabling loans for building purposes to be repaid in a period of eighty years. That was a very valuable provision, but it was now discovered that the Public Works Loin Commissioners, from whom many of the local authorities, especially the smaller ones and those in rural districts, were accustomed to obtain their money, were not allowed to lend over a greater period than fifty years. That was a ridiculous situation which certainly ought to be ended.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. WALTER LONG, Bristol, S.)
said, replying to the hon. Member for Hythe, that 389 before he asked Parliament to clothe the Department or local authorities with such powers as had been suggested he must be satisfied that they were required. In the case of Sandgate, he could find that no such proof had been offered. Only forty-five deaths there were attributed to consumption, and of those forty-three were among the patients of this consumptives' home. Consumption was no doubt highly infectious; but how could a district be protected against infection by regulation? The home was not the cause of offence as a hospital was in the case of smallpox or cholera. The only practical suggestion which had been offered to reduce the risk of infection was to prevent the establishment of homes for consumptives; but that would be quite impossible. If the local authorities chose to establish such homes, no one could prevent them. It was an unfortunate characteristic of consumption that patients suffering from it were much more dangerous outside than they were in the homes, because the most fruitful source of spreading the disease was the sputa of the sufferers. Further, the patients were, up to a late stage of the disease, able to walk about and to some extent enjoy life; and it was while they were walking about that the danger arose. That might be dealt with by by-laws, and he was quite prepared to consider whether the county council or the district council should be the proper authority in the matter. He hoped the measures mentioned by the hon. Member for the Cleveland Division would be promptly proceeded with.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that according to the Rules of the House the only part they were allowed to discuss was this question of expense. He thought on that point this Convention required some further explanation from the Colonial Secretary. He understood that the new compounds were to be erected for these Chinamen by the British Government at our expense, but the right hon. Gentleman said that that was not the real meaning of the words, because the British Government in this connection was the Transvaal Government, and therefore these compounds were to be erected at their expense. He wished to know whether 390 the expense would fall upon the Transvaal Government or upon the mine owners for whose benefit Chinese labour was going to be introduced. Hs also desired to know when they were going to have further Paper in regard to the regulations and terms of contract and the new regulations made under the Ordinance. They had had various Blue-books and certain regulations and terms of contract, but they had not yet had a complete copy of the Ordinance and regulations and terms of contract, and, therefore, they had no means of knowing how they stood. He thought he was entitled to press the right hon. Gentleman in this regard because they were not allowed to discuss this question on its merits but simply as an Amendment to the Address, when it was taken as a vote of censure. It was now three months since they were muzzled on that matter, and therefore he should like to know what had caused the delay, and why the House had not been placed in possession of the Ordinance and regulations as they stood at present. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would be able to give them that information so that when the House reassembled they would be able to discuss the matter with full knowledge of the subject. It appeared to him that the Government did not want these questions discussed, for if they did they could easily get those blocking Motions taken off. He would not say that those Motions were put down at the instigation of the Government, but they were at any rate put down with their knowledge and approbation. The Government did not want anything discussed because they knew their position was a precarious one. He regretted that certain hon. Members put down Motions which were contrary to the views they held.
§ *MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
said he wished to ask the Government to give them some information with regard to the Chinese Treaty Port of New-chwang. This country carried on a trade with that port amounting to £3,000,000 a year, and, up to a couple of days ago, for over four years it had been occupied and administered by the Russian Government, but our Japanese allies had succeeded, according to the newspapers, 391 in causing the evacuation of that place by the Russian forces. The Japanese forces had not yet occupied that port, where there were many British subjects, and, therefore, it was important that the Government should take the necessary steps to protects the lives and property of British subjects, and make arrangements for British trade to be carried on there uninterruptedly during the war. He welcomed the success of the Japanese, because they were fighting the battle of the ''open door," not only for themselves, but for this country as well in Manchuria. He wished to know what steps had been taken by the Government for the protection of the lives and property of British subjects at that port? He was aware that they could not expect their Japanese allies, if they had entered into occupation of New-chwang, to withdraw if they considered it necessary to continue in occupation from a military point of view. He did not desire the Government to take any hostile action towards the Japanese or to put any pressure upon them which they had not put on the Russians during their occupation for the last four years. If the Japanese remained in occupation till the end of the present war he was certain that they would, unhesitatingly hand back New-chwang to the Chinese military and civil jurisdiction as soon as the exigencies of the military situation would admit of it.
The present Government professed to be extremely anxious to promote British commercial interests. At present Russia, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United States were busily engaged laying down railways in China, using materials made in their own countries. This was a great iron and steel manufacturing country, but though we fought for the "open door" in China our iron and steel manufacturers and railway stock makers were having no part or share in the great business done with China in these goods. They were told that they had received concessions for 2,800 miles of railway in China, but the concessions seemed to have got into the hands of syndicates in this country who were not properly fulfilling the agreements made with the Chinese Government. He asked the Under-Secretary to say which, if any, of these projects were being actively taken in hand, whether there was any 392 danger of concessions lapsing, and whether the reversion of them might not be secured for the British investing public and more enterprising persons than the present concessionnaires.He desired to know whether the commercial treaty with China came into operation on 1st January last, and whether the new treaty ports had been opened. He desired also to know whether His Majesty's Government had secured for the benefit of British commerce those further advantages that were got in the American and Japanese treaties which were subsequently concluded. Had the new rules with reference to the navigation of Chinese waterways come into force? These were practical questions affecting British trade in China, and he wanted the Government to take practical steps through the Foreign Office-and otherwise to secure the carrying on of the provisions of any commercial treaty that would tend to promote the volume of British trade with the Chinese Empire. Referring to the Anglo-French Agreement, he asked whether the Government had succeeded in making arrangements by which British and French trade should enjoy equality of treatment not only in Siam and the adjacent territories, but also in South-West China. He hoped the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs would be able to give the House a reassuring reply in regard to this matter.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could elucidate the reply which he had made shortly before to an hon. Member on the other side. He did not understand exactly what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he said the money was not to be paid by the British Government. In the document which had been presented to Members that day it was plainly stated that the expenses of the emigration agencies were to be borne by the British Government. The words were—The British Consular Officer at the port or his delegate shall confer with the Chinese inspector as to the location and installation of the office and other necessary buildings hereinafter called the emigration agency, which shall be erected or fitted up by the British Government and at their expense.The reply might be made that in point of fact the Transvaal Government or the mine managers would repay the money, 393 but he thought the House must be chary of presuming that such repayment would be forthcoming, in view of the present economic condition of the Transvaal. In accordance with this document the British people would pay in the first instance, and probably in the long fun. The result would be that the people of this country would be called upon to pay for an undertaking to which they were bitterly opposed. In his own constituency, at any rate, there was hardly one man who did not agree with him in resenting this proposal.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said that this question was really of a very elementary character. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Poplar, who had so much experience as to treaties, had not seen that when one Power entered into a treaty with another it made certain engagements, and as between ourselves and China the British Government had become responsible for the erection of the buildings in which, for purposes of sanitation, it was necessary that the Chinamen should for a time be gathered. In carrying out that intention the hon. Member surely must be familiar with the fact that it was invariable in such instruments to mention only the liability of the contracting parties. Where we were going to find the money to discharge that liability was immaterial. To have put it on the face of the treaty with China would have been irregular and out of the usual form. His hon. and gallant friend made a point by saying that the Transvaal would be unable to pay the very small expense necessary to put up these buildings. If his hon. and gallant friend had waited until to-day, or if he had consulted the Ordinance in its earlier form, he would have found that the mine-owners had to pay very considerable fees for the issue of their licences, that considerable fees had to be paid by the owners of the ships that conducted the immigration, and thus a fund of considerable size was set up which would reimburse the Transvaal. If that fund was not sufficient the Transvaal Government would have to make good the expenditure.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
asked whether there would be a Vote in the House if the Government had 394 made themselves responsible for the Transvaal?
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said there would be no Vote unless the money was required, and he did not anticipate that it would be required by the British Government. If a report was made by the Transvaal Government that there was not sufficient money, then they could come on the British Exchequer, and in that case, if it was necessary for them to do so, a Vote would be asked for.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
said he understood that the buildings were going to be erected out of funds which would be supplied from British sources before the Chinese immigration began. He wished to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman was entitled to make the British Government responsible without asking for a Vote.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said his hon. friend was not correct in saying that the money would be supplied by the British Government. The money would be supplied by the Transvaal Government, and the Transvaal Government would look to the mine-owners, who he thought even the hon. Member would admit had sufficient resources to meet such a trifling expenditure. It was necessary that an instrument should be drawn up between ourselves and the Chinese Government, and any one who had had experience in the drafting of treaties would acknowledge that if an obligation under a treaty was taken over by a Government subordinate to one of the contracting Governments, that did not diminish its force. As to the question of the hon. Member for Poplar as to when the regulations would be laid, if he had been present yesterday he would have heard him state that he expected that the Ordinance, the regulations, the form of contract, and the Convention, all placed conveniently in one Blue-book, would be in the hands of hon. Members to-day, and he believed that would be so. He regretted the hon. Member, without any knowledge of the facts, should have thought it necessary to say that he had broken a pledge. The hon. Member was out of order in referring to the question at all.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that what he had ventured to point out was that the right hon. Gentleman had stated specifically that the minimum wage would be 2s., and in an answer he gave two days ago he stated that the wages were to be from 1s. 6d. to 2s. a day.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said that what he stated was that the wages to be received by the Chinaman would be at least 2s. a day, and that statement was made from information received from the highest experts, who said that, in their opinion, the Chinaman would not go to the Transvaal for less. That information had, however, been proved to be incorrect, for, as a matter of fact, Chinamen were willing to go for a very much less sum.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said that the object he had at heart, and it was the object that every one would have at heart, was that this introduction of Chinese labour into the Transvaal should not operate to cut Kaffir wages. The object was to supplement Kaffir labour, and not to compete with Kaffir wages. That was the object he had in view and which he had pressed on Lord Milner, and hon. Members would see in the Blue-book that he insisted on that with perfect clearness. That end had been attained, and every single Chinaman would be able to earn more than the minimum wage of the Kaffir.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he clearly understood the right hon. Gentleman's explanation, but he was entitled to point out that in a speech made on 31st March the right hon. Gentleman said that the Chinaman would receive in the Transvaal 2s. a day, and later on he said that he had been advised that it was unnecessary and undesirable to specify in the Ordinance a minimum wage, but that he gave the House his assurance that the Chinaman would receive the amount he had specified. He thought in the circumstances the right hon. Gentleman would hardly say that he had done him an injustice.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said the point was the minimum wage. All anybody could fairly demand was that the minimum wage of the Chinaman should not be less than that of the Kaffir. In the course of a very few months it would be found that the Chinaman would be able to earn more than the minimum wage, and that the aggregate wages of a number of Chinamen would be greater than the aggregate wages of the same number of Kaffirs.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs for some information as to the progress of affairs in Macedonia. He knew that there was a blocking Motion on the Paper put down by the hon. Member for the Hanover Square Division, but the noble Lord might be able to give some information as to what was being done in regard to the gendarmerie and as regards the Consuls to be appointed in Macedonia.
§ MR. LLOYD - GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said he would not like to go away from this question of Chinese labour. No one would, of course, charge the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary with deliberately breaking faith with the House. The right hon. Gentleman had throughout this South African business trusted to what he called "gentlemen of experience," and they misled him as they had misled his predecessors. He believed the advice of experts was the cause of the whole South African trouble from beginning to end. It was a great misfortune that the right hon. Gentleman could not work out this matter for himself and exercise his independent judgment without trusting so much to officials and "gentlemen of experience" in South Africa. All they knew at the present moment was that the British Government was, by the Ordinance circulated that day, undertaking financial responsibility for the recruiting of Chinese labour for South Africa. It was no business of the British Government to undertake the responsibility of recruiting Chinese labour for any part of the world. It was all very well to say the Transvaal would repay the expenses, but the Transvaal Government had already undertaken obligations 397 they were unable to discharge. They were unable even to undertake that elementary duty of a civilised Government—that of keeping up a police force for the maintenance of law and order. How, then, could they take up a responsibility outside their ordinary functions? If these gentlemen wanted cheap labour, let them find it. The British Government did not undertake that duty for any other part of the Empire. The low-grade mines of Merionethshire could be worked at a profit with cheap labour at a shilling a day.
§ *MR. LYTTELTON
said that under the terms of a treaty regulations had to be drawn up in respect to all Chinese subjects taking service in British dominions.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he quite appreciated the point of view of the Chinese Government and their natural desire to have financial arrangements endorsed by the British Government, but that was no reason for the latter undertaking the business. The Chinese Government would evidently not trust those gentlemen; and were not prepared to enter into any undertaking of magnitude with them. They wanted the endorsement of the British Government; but that was no reason why this country should give it. This was a business which the Transvaal should undertake for itself, especially as it was to be regarded as a self-governing colony. Why should this country undertake financial responsibilities and engagements which were not to be extended to other parts of the Empire. He desired to add his protest against the practice of putting down blocking notices. The Government were in a rickety condition; it was but a ramshackle concern, and the Government held Carlyle's view that rotten institutious will hold together so long as they were not roughly handled. So they laid down mines at the entrance of the harbour. From all points of view it would be wiser to allow discussion. But blocking notices prevented discussion upon all subjects in which the country had an interest. There was the Motion of the previous night in suspense. The Amendment of the Member for West Birmingham was not allowed to be discussed; it was treated as a pirate 398 omnibus, and taken off the road because the driver was mistrusted, and passengers would not enter, fearing that, though label-led Sheffield, its destination was Birmingham. They could scarcely sail through the mines which had been Kid down. Already his hon. friend the Member for Flint Boroughs had been blown up over the Tibet question; and one or two of their other cruisers had also been sunk. The Order Paper was littered with blocking Motions; and when the Ministerialists were in Opposition they would then have no complaint to make if similar tactics were adopted. They knew very well what the position of the hon. Member for Peckham was. He was a member of His Majesty's Government; he was the official blocker for the Government; he was one of its most important members, and did his duties so well that it was almost impossible to break through his lines. He was, how ever, perfectly certain that all those blocking Motions were put down by the Government. Then there was the hon. Member for Rotberhithe, who was also above suspicion. In fact, every hon. Member who was above suspicion had been brought into requisition; and every question that demanded discussion was blocked. That amounted to a public scandal; and the House of Commons ought to take serious notice of it in the interests of its own dignity and efficiency. The Prime Minister had only to say the word to stop this practice; but at present he appeared to be conniving at it. That was neither fair to the House of Commons nor to the country. Take the fiscal question—
§ MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said that the Motion on the Paper with reference to the fiscal question was in the name of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said that the difference was that the noble Lord believed in his Resolution. The noble Lord was pressing the Government; but he should like to see the hon. and learned Member for Peckham pressing the Government. The department of his hon. friend was to save the Government during the dinner hour—a duty which he discharged with very great credit. 399 Seriously, the House of Commons ought to be allowed to discuss the fiscal question. At present the Government would not face a vote of confidence. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was still on the Paper.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman is now proceeding to discuss the merits of a Motion which, he admits, is on the Paper.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he could not discuss the merits of the question because it had none. The point he wished to put was, that as there was nothing more important on the Order-book the Government ought to find time in which to discuss the Motion. They were told that the trade of the Empire was going to pieces.
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to ask the Government for a day to discuss the Motion to which he refers; but he is not in order in discussing the Motion now.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he did not care from what point of view the matter was discussed; but it was of enormous importance. It had reference to the policy the Government had laid down for the future, and, so far as he could see, the only reason why it should not be discussed was that the Government feared their policy would not bear discussion. The whole difficulty had been created by a very disgraceful attempt to misuse the Rules of the House. In the interests of hon. Gentlemen opposite, seeing that some of them might return on the Opposition side, supporters of the present Government should join in the endeavour to obtain free discussion. He urged that it was impossible for the House to conduct its business under the present system. The Government was really trifling with the House and playing with the interests of the country. The sooner hon. Members took the subject into their own control the better it would be for the reputation of Parliament.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said the question he desired to call attention to was the manner in which Trinity 400 College and some of the Irish landlords were obstructing the working of the Irish Land Act. When the Irish Land Bill was passed through the House a sum of £5,000 per annum was voted for Trinity College for the purpose of making up the difference between the amount which would be received for the annual rents, and that which would be derived from the investments of the purchase money. So far as Trinity College was concerned as a direct landlord he had no desire to interfere with any bargains they mace with their tenants, but Parliament had gone out of its way to give them the £5,000 a year in older that they should not lose by the sale of their head-rents They were great- landowners and owners of superior interests in many parts of Ireland, and wherever they, as the owners of a head rent or a superior interest, had been compelled to fix the price of that superior interest, they hid never gone below 27½years purchase. Before the Act was passed the average price of these head rents was twenty-five years purchase. By this Act they had stopped the sale of any of their estates in the country. The Chief Secretary had said that he had no right to interfere, because, if the tenants were not satisfied with the price of the head-rents, they could have it arbitrated upon by the Land Commission or the Land Judge. There had been one arbitration, and one only, and he should like to ask the Chief Secretary, when this arbitration was before Mr. Justice Meredith was one word said about this £5,000, was one word said about this Parliamentary grant being made to ease the situation, and to enable the tenants to pay a reasonable rent? The House had done for Trinity College what it did for no other landlords. Was this money to accumulate in the hands of the trustees and not to benefit the tenants? Some day the House would be asked to give £50,000 or£60,000 for some purpose absolutely unconnected with land purchase. Trinity College authorities were endeavouring to get this money for some other purpose. It was time for Trinity College to recognise that all the Irish Members representing all Parties would be driven to work, and work resolutely, for the repeal of that section of the Land Act which gave this £5,000, because the tenants got nothing from it.
§ MR. BOLAND (Kerry, S.)
said the question raised by the hon. Member for South Tyrone was extremely important. In his own constituency they had a number of Trinity College tenants who had been precluded from purchasing Owing to the exorbitant demands of Trinity College. He sincerely hoped the Chief Secretary would take warning from what had been said and that he would endeavour to make Trinity College part with their lands to their tenants. It was a monstrous thing that a corporation like this should be given greater facilities than any other landowner and should refuse to part with its land. He also desired to call attention to the action of the Congested Districts Board which, after a delay of two-and-a-half years, had provided only a temporary landingstage atCooscroum, county Kerry, to enable the fishermen there to haul their boats up above high-water mark. It was scandalous that the Congested Districts Board should come down and attempt to settle this claim for a permanent landing stage in this way. The district would not accept a temporary landing stage put up at a cost of £10 as a settlement of their claim.
§ MR. FLAVIN (Kerry, N.)
congratulated the hon. Member for South Tyrone in drawing attention to the action of Trinity College. Under all the preceding Land Acts the average price of land in the county of Kerry had been fifteen years purchase, and the highest price paid since 1886 was eighteen years purchase. He wanted to know what had occurred since the passing of this Act that had caused land to increase in value to such an extent as to raise the price to twenty-seven years purchase. He suggested that a Committee should be appointed to inquire into the position of the middlemen as against Trinity College. He had no interest in the middlemen. He had always regarded them as the curse of Ireland. But here was where the injustice came in. The middleman's rent had been fixed since 1851, and in a case with which he was familiar the amount received by the middleman from his tenants had been reduced within the last thirty years by 40 per cent; but he still had to pay the exorbitant rent originally fixed 402 by Trinity College. If it was fair that the tenants' rents should be reduced according to the fall in the price of agricultural produce, surely it was equally fair that the rent paid to Trinity College by the middlemen should be proportionately reduced. His one desire was to see the Land Act work smoothly in every county in Ireland, but nineteen out of every twenty landlords were not giving it a fair opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman failed to carry out the recommendations of the Land Conference in their entirety, and, as a consequence, the landlords were pocketing the whole benefit of the decadal reductions which ought to go to the tenants, with the result that prices had risen from seventeen to twenty-two or twenty-three years purchase The position of agriculture had not improved; labour was more expensive; and if the Land Act was going to work out at twenty-five or twenty-six years purchase the British Treasury, before ten years had passed, would be looking in vain to Irish farmers for the repayment of annuities based on impossible purchase prices.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
said he did not propose to embark on the wider issues raised by the hon. Member for North Kerry. He thought the hon. Member was under a complete misapprehension as to the way in which the Land Act was working. He spoke of twenty-five and twenty-six years purchase on the first and second-term rents, but he (the Chief Secretary) had no evidence that any such prices had been agreed to.
§ MR. FLAVIN
The right hon. Gentleman himself has spoken of twenty-seven years purchase as being the average, I pointed out that Trinity College had asked for twenty-seven years purchase.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he knew that the hon. Member had views about average prices which he did not share, but he could hardly expect him to repeat then what he said more than once last year with regard to the Land Conference. It was true the Government did not see their way to give all that was asked, either by the landlords or by the tenants, so a balance was struck and on the whole 403 the Act was working as well as could be expected in an imperfect world. At the beginning of negotiations he found it was usual for the landlord to ask more and for the tenant to offer less than they were willing generally to agree to. He occasionally received alarming accounts of a total deadlock on some estates; ten days afterwards he was told he need not trouble so much about them, and a fortnight later he heard that an amicable agreement had been arrived at. This had happened so often within the last three months that he ventured to hope it might be the normal results of the Act passed last year. With regard to the narrower question of the Trinity College head-rents, it should be remembered that a head-rent was almost as distinct as it could be from an agricultural rent fixed by a Court and subject to alteration—generally reduction —at the end of fifteen years. Therefore, as it was of a permanent character and not subject to alteration, it was of greater value than any agricultural rent, and certainly worth a larger number of years purchase than a rent liable to reduction by a Court.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he was not sufficiently a lawyer to answer that question, but he would say that a head-rent was of greater value, because tithes could be reduced and had been commuted, but Parliament had never intervened with regard to head-rents. If it was held to be reasonable that in respect of agricultural rents subject to reduction by the Courts, such an amount of money should be given as when invested would give to the owner an income comparable with the net income which he previously received, clearly a higher price ought to be given for a head-rent. He thought that an owner might legitimately expect to receive for a head-rent such a sum as when invested in first-class securities would give him his income without any reduction, or something very near it. He believed that was the attitude taken up by the owners of head-rents. On that basis, if the money were invested at 3¼per cent., an owner would require thirty years purchase to bring him in the income he had previously received. 404 It was for that reason that he asked the House to pay £5,000 a year to Trinity College to be used only in the case of their income from head-rents being reduced by sales under the Act. Taking the investment at 3¼percent., their £5,000 a year would be required if twenty-seven and a half years purchase was asked instead of thirty years. In a test case before Mr. Justice Meredith brought by Trinity College, the twenty-seven and a half years was reduced to twenty-six. In some cases it might be more and in others less, but that did not seem to be an unsatisfactory conclusion. A rigid rule could not be-laid down for all cases, and he deprecated any attempt on the part of Parliament to say that these head-rents should always obtain a given number of years purchase. The position of Trinity College was apart from that of any private individual. It was a public institution giving University education, and no Government would consent to imperil the work of such a body by the operation of another Act which might incidentall yout down their annual income by one-fourth or one-fifth. To deal with the problem I he accepted the suggestion which was made at the time, that a Commission should be appointed to look into the whole question, and he had now made up his mind as to the terms of reference. They were the following:—"To inquire into and report upon the relations subsisting between the grantees and lessees and the occupying: tenants since the date of the passing of the College Leases in Perpetuity Act, 1851, and to inquire into and report upon the means by which the purchase by the occupying tenants of their holdings under the provisions of the Land Act may he facilitated without diminishing the average net rental derived by Trinity College as the head landlord." He would take into account what the hon. Member had said with regard to the congested districts, but he would remind the hon. Member that the funds of the congested districts Board were not unlimited, and they had to be devoted to the definite objects of that Board and could not be diverted to such works as he had mentioned, however desirable they might be.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said this was a question of very great importance. He did not know whether he was right or not, but this 405 struck him as being a further demand for subsidising Trinity College. That to his mind was what appeared to lie behind the words of the right hon. Gentleman. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed with the inquiry until he had given hon. Members from Ireland an opportunity of expressing their views upon the subject, and Irish Members could not be expected at that moment to express an opinion upon the, terms of reference just read out by the right hon. Gentleman but he must say that he was not altogether attracted by some of the words contained in it. They struck him, as far as he could judge from hearing them read rapidly, as in tended to be a preliminary to a farther demand for subsidising Trinity College. As to the present position and prospects of the Land Act, he regretted to say that he could not form quite as sanguine a view of its working as the right hon. Gentleman formed. He had made inquiries in Ireland, and there was not only a feeling of uneasiness, but a good deal of indignation upon this subject. He thought the hon. Member for South Tyrone would bear him out upon this point. The temper of the Convention held in Dublin was very strong indeed as to the manner in which the landlords had been conducting negotiations with regard to the sale of their estates. There appeared to be an effort to produce something like a land boom which was altogether unjustified in the present circumstances. He had not yet been able to understand the process of reasoning upon which the landlords proceeded to add several years purchase to the ordinary normal number of years purchase. He knew the right hon. Gentleman did not like land purchase to be tested by the number of years purchase, but this was the only current coin of exchange which the Irish people under stood and it was the only test by which they would try all these purchases.
With regard to Trinity College, he spoke strongly upon the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, when it was carried last year, by which that College received a special bonus of its own upon these transactions. The right hon. Gentleman -succeeded in carrying the bonus of £5,000 for Trinity College, and what was the argument by which he succeeded in persuading the House to accept that 406 extraordinary proposition? Trinity College was not the only educational institution which had suffered from the depreciation in land values. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland went down to Oxford or Cambridge he would find colleges in those districts which had been crippled on account of the fall in the price of agricultural produce. No one had ever proposed that colleges at I Oxford or Cambridge, or even Guy's Hospital, should be recompensed by the State by granting an annual subsidy on account of a reduction in revenue through the fall in agricultural prices. He thought they had a right to go back upon the reason which was given to justify that bonus which was to facilitate the sale of holdings by Trinity College to their tenants. Had that been justified? He had never used the language of violent vituperation because the landlords were attempting to drive hard bargains, for that was human nature, but he thought the landlords were now pushing things so far that they were preparing for themselves a day of reckoning in which they would not get anything like the prices they were asking. It might be said that the case of Trinity College was different, and that it was not in the same position as other institutions. What had been the action of Trinity College, Dublin? They got the £5,000 bonus, and by the same extraordinary process of reasoning which appeared to have animated the landlords, they concluded that because they had got this advantage they should refuse to accept the prices which they were ready to take before they had received that advantage. The Chief Secretary appeared to pass by altogether the concrete fact that Trinity College was demanding twenty-seven and a half years purchase after having got this bonus of £5,000, whilst before they got that bonus they were willing to accept twenty years purchase. That was the return that Trinity College was giving to the right hon. Gentleman for the £5,000 which Parliament so unwillingly consented to grant to Trinity College.
§ ME. HEMPHILL (Tyrone. N.)
said the terms of reference seemed to imply that under no circumstances should Trinity College suffer any loss as bead landlord. He thought the reference 407 ought to be modified so as to leave it open to the Commissioners to say whether under certain circumstances Trinity College, like other head landlords, might not have to undergo certain loss. All who had any experience in Ireland knew that a great number of head land lords had had to undergo serious loss under the operation of the Land Purchase Acts, and he could see no reason why Trinity College should be put on a different footing from others. Trinity College had many advantages which individual landlords could not possibly have, because it was not dependent on its rents. It had a large income derived from the fees of pupils, and the fees of those who took degrees Why, therefore, should Trinity College be placed in such a position that, no matter how other landlords might suffer by the operation of the Land Purchase Acts, which were passed on principles of great public policy, it should not suffer in the same proportion as others? Trinity College sent two Members to Parliament who were always supporters of the Conservative Government no matter how extreme the views of that Government might be, but why, in regard to the land it possessed, that particular corporation should be favoured above all other corporations or individuals no one could possibly understand. Why should not Trinity College run a certain amount of risk in this matter? He believed it was the richest corporation in the Empire, and he understood that the individual members of the corporation were paid on a larger scale than almost any other class of the community. It should not be allowed to stand in the way of carrying out the great policy of converting the occupiers of Ireland into freeholders by demanding an unreasonable price. Trinity College should be subject to the same contingencies attending the occupation of land as other landlords, and they were not entitled to statutory immunity from these contingencies for all time. He should object to a reference involving a declaration per fas et nefas that Trinity College should always be secured for its net income beyond any possibility of change.
§ ME. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
said he concurred with the hon. Member for the 408 Scotland Division that in the absence of the hon. Member for Waterford it might be desirable not to refer to the question.
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
said the Shop Hours Bill had not yet been presented to the House. This Bill was deeply interesting to the people whom it would affect.
§ MR. SHACKLETON
said he was not aware that it had been issued. He wished to ask the Home Secretary whether they might hope that it would be pressed forward so that considerable hardship might be removed in the cast; of those who were subjected to unreasonable treatment in the matter of hours. Seven years ago an Act was passed dealing with the question of compensation to workmen, and it had not been in operation for more than two years before it was found to contain a considerable number of anomalies. When the King's Speech was published workmen throughout the country were pleased to find mention of a Bill dealing with the subject, believing that it would give relief from some of the anomalies of the present Act. They desired that this Bill should be introduced, and that a serious attempt should be made to grapple with the defects of the law as it now stood. He could give many illustrations of the hardships suffered by workmen at present, but he would only give one arising out of a case which occurred recently in his own society. Before the present Act was passed they were told that it was intended to provide in cases of accident for the payment of half wages with a limit of £1 per week, but it was found when the Act came into operation that it was not half wages as they understood the term. In the case to which he desired to call attention a workman was obliged to stay at home to attend to his sick wife. After returning to work he had an accident by which he lost the sight of one eye. During these three months the return of wages was used against him to reduce his claim under the Act, and instead of receiving half wages, he only received 7s. 6d. a week. That was a case 409 which had arisen on account of a decision of the Judges. There were other cases, such as casual employment.
§ MR. SHACKLETON
said he would not pursue that line of argument. He maintained, however, that working men were waiting anxiously for the Government to do something in regard to this matter; and they would carefully watch the intentions of the Government.
§ MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)
said ha did not know whether it would be competent for the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs to make any statement in regard to Macedonia in view of the fact that there was a Motion on the Paper; but he hoped it would be possible for him to make a statement in regard to the position of affairs in Asiatic Turkey, especially among the Armenian villages in the plain of Mush. There had been many serious instances of provocative agents in that region starting hostilities so as to bring the Kurds to commit outrages on the inhabitants. The Government had a heavy responsibility in this matter of Armenia, because, under the Sixty-first Article of the Treaty of Berlin it was declared that there should be security for the life and property of the inhabitants in that distracted region. He earnestly trusted that the Government would make every conceivable effort to prevent the peace of that part of the world being disturbed. Unfortunately, there was still going on there the same extortion by the tax-gatherers which existed years ago, and the same employment of irregular troops. Armenia was in a chronic state of unrest on account of the misgovernment; and it was to be hoped that the Government would, through its agents, keep in touch with those regions. There were Kurds and Kurds, and it would be specially advisable that this country should be represented when 410 the Commission consisting of the Vali of Bitlis and the Armenian bishops mad their inquiry into the present condition of affairs in that quarter of Asia Minor.
§ *THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Earl PERCY) Kensington, S.
said he had been asked to make some statement as to the measures the Government had taken for the protection of British residents a New-chwang. That was a portion of China which both the belligerents ha declined to recognise as included in the neutralised area. The Government withdrew the gunboat Borne time age because she would have been in great danger in the event of an attack upon that place; but they had now sent he to another port just west of Shan-hai kwan, where she would be ready in the event of any emergency. The Government had received as late as 15th May an intimation from the British Consul a New-chwang that he did not apprehend any danger to the lives or property of residents there, that there were practically no brigands in the neighbourhood, and that the Russian civil administrator had undertaken to do all in his power to secure protection to life and property As to the railway concessions in China under the form of contract entered into with the Chinese Government, there was no danger of their lapsing; but he did not know that he regarded it as an entirely satisfactory fact that no step had been taken by the British China Corporation to commence work on the construction of these railways. He had already stated in a speech that he thought it was not fair to the Chinese Government which had granted the concessions, to the British Government, which had applied for them, or to the British community in China that no advance should have been made towards putting China in possession of railway facilities; but the British Chins Corporation had assured the Government that in the present condition of the money market it was impossible to float the loans, and that was an eventuality 411 provided for under the contract. As regarded the commercial treaties which had been signed with China by Japan and the United States, of course there was no necessity for the British Government to enter into negotiations with either of these countries for the right to share the concessions which were made, because we should obtain all those advantages under our most-favoured-nation clause in the Treaty of Tientsin.
As to the events in certain portions of the Kurdish districts in Armenia the Government had no very clear information from the locality as to what exactly had happened, but they heard from the British Ambassador at Constantinople some weeks ago that a fairly large force of Armenian revolutionaries had crossed from Russian and Persian territory as they had done in 1897 or 1898. The Sultan was anxious that the Armenian Patriarch at Constantinople should put himself in communication with the insurgents, and offer them, if they would give a pledge to return to the territories from which they had come, a complete amnesty. Since then the Government had received various reports as to the incidents that had occurred in the interior. One report was to the effect that the Armenian revolutionaries had attacked the Kurdish troops and killed many of them. The Kurds brought the dead bodies of their comrades into Mush and this naturally caused a great deal of excitement. Another report was to the effect that certain Turkish gendarmes went to an Armenian village to collect taxes which the Armenians alleged had already been paid, and that one of them on entering an Armenian house was immediately shot by the revolutionaries. The local 412 Armenians admit that the first shot was fired by them. Sir Nicholas O'Conor did not entertain great hopes, in view of the impractable attitude of the revolutionaries, of any fruitful result following from the intervention of the Armenian Patriarch or of his local representatives. The British Government had done all they could do. They had represented very strongly more than once to the Porte the necessity of taking every precaution in their power to prevent the employment of irregular troops or Kurd s if they must suppress the revolutionary outbreak. They had also been in communication with the Russian and French Governments, with the result that they hoped to enlist the services of the Russian and French Consuls at Bitlis, as well as those of our own, to act as intermediaries to bring about a peaceful solution of the difficulty.
With regard to Macedonia, he had little to add to the statement which he made on the Motion for the Adjournment fur the Easter holidays. The position of the European officers was, of course, anomalous, and he did not think that a precise definition of their powers was possible or advisable. They might say roughly that the task of these officers was the task of organisation, inspection, and control, as distinguished from the duty of actual command. But if they went further than that, and laid down a hard-and-fast rule as to what these European officers might or might not do in certain contingencies which could not possibly be foreseen, and which they hoped might never occur, they would tie the hands of these officers in dealing with any emergency that might arise. There was no sign whatever that any distrust 413 or jealousy was entertained of the position of these officers by the local authorities. They had been greeted warmly on their arrival at Salonika by the Inspector-General, Hilmi Pasha. He had assured them that every facility would be placed at their disposal, and that the most prompt attention and respect would be paid to any recommendations which they might have to offer. General de Giorgis and his staff officers had already undertaken a visit of inspection to Monastir and Uskub, and all the foreign officers had proceeded to their respective spheres of influence. He understood that a beginning had been made in establishing the new school for the enlistment and training of the gendarmerie in Salonika, and therefore in J he next few months they might be able to announce some practical and definite result of the scheme.
With regard to the two civil assessors, Lord Lansdowne had expressed in another place the great regret of the British Government that t hey were not in a position to say that any great progress had been made as the result of their appointment. They did not say that no progress had been made. On the contrary; their complaint was that the civil assessors had not furnished them with any report as to what they were doing which enabled them to say whether any progress had been made or not. They had asked the Russian and Austrian Governments for such reports, and the Russian Government had intimated their hope that in future they might be able to furnish us with information of that kind. The British Government thought they had a right to expect that these reports should be furnished, because the civil assessors, 414 apart from their special responsibility to their respective Governments, also occupied a position of quasiinternational responsibility to the Powers. There was no question of an international conference, because the British Government were pledged to give hearty and loyal support both in word and in deed to the Austrian and Russian reform scheme until that, scheme had had a full and fair trial.
§ MR. ALFRED DAVIES (Carmarthen Boroughs)
said he could not understand why blocking Motions should be introduced; but he hoped to be able to make a few remarks without falling foul of the Chair. Ashon. Members were undoubtedly backward in their work he would suggest that the adjournment should be only until Tuesday next. The sky was clouded. There was trouble in Tibet; and this country was interested in the great fight that was now proceeding between Japan and Russia. If the Eastern nation won the consequences might be very serious, and he wished to know what action, if any, the Government were taking to bring about peace. There was trouble also in other parts of the world; and they ought to have a clear statement as to how the country stood. Then there was the education problem and the Licensing Bill. As regarded the latter, the consequences might undoubtedly be serious for the Government. The special question, however, to which he wished to refer was that of passive resistance. It was a very important question, and the House should bear in mind that 21,000 persons were now passive resisters. They included a number of men of influence, one Judge, many Justices of the Peace, and also many ministers of religion, Nonconformist and Conformist. Did the House imagine that 415 those men were playing with the question? They resisted because they felt it was wrong to pay money for schools over which there was no public control. If there was public control over all schools the difficulty would be avoided. Why should Nonconformists pay for schools in which they were not concerned? Why should not every man pay his own ex-ponies to Heaven? He hoped that when the House resumed, legislation for the welfare of the people would be undertaken.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he wished to express his regret that the House was precluded from discussing subjects in which a deep interest was felt. It was humiliating to be condemned to see matters of the importance of which they were fully convinced withdrawn from the cognisance of the House on this occasion, and the humiliation was not less when it was remembered that the other House was subject to no such disability, and that there discussions could be freely raised upon Chinese labour, Tibet, Macedonia, or other matters of public interest. The disability under which they suffered was due to no Rule of the House, but to decisions of former Speakers, given without foreseeing the extent to which their rulings would compel their successors to go. And for that reason the House ought to address itself to recovering its own liberties. He could not but regret that the Government did not recognise the responsibility that rested upon them not to allow their supporters to put the House in such a humiliating position as to prevent the House, by means of these Motions, from discussing questions in which the country was deeply concerned. The Under-Secretary of State for 416 Foreign Affairs had made a statement in regard to events in Armenia which, in his recollection, did not seem to be accurate. He did not remember any occasion before the great massacres of 1894–5 when any large body of revolutionists marched in from Russian Armenia, and the accounts which he had read were entirely different from those which had reached the Under-Secretary. The accounts he had received, which had been confirmed by telegrams in The Times, were quite different. All these troubles arose from outrages committed by the Kurds, who descended upon the peasantry of the low country, the local officials conniving at the robberies committed. Having sent the Kurds off to do as much mischief as they could, they turned to account the incident by organising expeditions against the Christian population, murdering them, and burning their villages, and trumped-up this story of revolutionary movements in the attempt to justify themselves. At Constantinople, as any one who had taken the trouble to follow the course of events would see, the whole of the troubles were due to the action of Kurds and Turkish officials, and, if the Turkish Government had the goodwill, they would keep the Kurds in order and remove those offending, ill-intentioned, and ill-omened officials. He expressed a hope that the Government would endeavour to obtain fuller and clearer information than they had been able to give the House, and use all their influence in conjunction with other Powers to avert further disturbances by effecting the removal of the Kurdish Governor and the employment of regular troops instead of Kurds. He was glad to know that France would co-operate with that object, and the co-operation of Russia would be doubly 417 valuable. In regard to the state of things in Macedonia, he noticed that in the other House a few days ago the Foreign Secretary stated that a difference had arisen between the Turkish Government and the Civil Agents of Austria and Russia, who had not been allowed to perambulate the country for the purpose of making their report.
§ *EARL PERCY
said a telegram had been sent asking for the exact facts. Personally he thought it probable that the Turkish Government did not feel able to guarantee the safety of the Civil Agents unless a Turkish official accompanied them.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he would not follow the noble Lord in what he had said about the gendarmerie, for under the ruling from the Chair he could not say more. The words used in the House of Lords by the Foreign Secretary had raised grave apprehensions, and he hoped the Government would use their utmost efforts to accelerate the progress of reforms and give to the people of Macedonia assurance of European sympathy and assistance.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. AKERS-DOUGLAS, Kent, St. Augustine's),
replying to questions asked during the discussion, said the Shop Hours Bill had been carefully prepared, and he hoped to introduce it shortly after the House reassembled. It was not a new subject, and he did not anticipate there would be a long discussion on the Second Reading. The Workmen's Compensation Bill had been delayed by the necessity for inquiry into many technical matters by a Departmental Committee. The Report of that Committee would be pre- 418 sented in a few days, and when he had received it a Bill would be prepared, and he had every hope it might be carried through during the session as a non-contentious measure.
*MR. WETR (Ross and Cromarty)
called attention to the large proportion of deaths in the Highlands and Islands which were uncertified. His complaint was that although the Government were aware of this they treated the question with indifference. Few parochial medical officers in the Highlands held the Public Health diploma as required by statute, and though four years ago be was assured that the grievance would speedily be remedied, inasmuch as many young men were going in for the Public Health diplomas, matters had really gone from bad to worse. Nothing had been done in his constituency in the direction of establishing hospitals for the sick poor. The people died off like flies, and were buried without certificate, and without having been seen by a doctor. In some areas more than half the deaths were uncertified, and it was a scandal that this state of things should have been allowed to go on unattended to. It would cost a little money to put the matter on a sound footing, but it ought to be attended to without delay. The Highlands provided splendid men for the Army and the Naval Reserve, and were entitled to better treatment. If the Chinese only knew how this Government treated their own poor, he was convinced they would not be prepared to hand themselves over to the mining interest in South Africa. There were places in Scotland where there was not a doctor within forty miles. Arrangements ought to be made to provide more medical men in the various 419 districts. He feared that some of the chief officials in the Local Government Board in Edinburgh did their work badly, and appeared to him to live too much at ease in Edinburgh. He had intended to raise other matters, but as he did not wish to detain hon. Members and officials on the eve of the holidays he would cut his remarks short.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. A. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said that so far as the hon. Member's questions affected the Local Government Board, he could promise him that at a future period of the session he should have a nice quiet afternoon to deal with them. As to uncertified deaths, the hon. Member had complained that he got the same answer year after year. He could only give him the same answer again, and he was bound to say that he did not think there was the slightest grievance, or the slightest incentive to do anything which ought not to be done under the present system. To his mind it would be a perfectly useless expenditure to insist by law that every death should be certified by a doctor. There was no statutory duty cast upon any doctor whether in the Highlands or any other part of Scotland to certify. As the hon. Member knew, in cases of sudden death there was an inquiry by a public official, and in the whole of his experience he had never known of any crime going undetected because a death had not been certified.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said he wished to ask the Financial Secretary to the Treasury one question, and it was a very important matter. It related to the date at which the 420 Committee stage of the Licensing Bill would be taken. He understood that it was not contemplated to take the Committee stage until Monday the 6th of June. He submitted to the Government that it would be an extremely improper thing to take the Committee stage at so early a date. The Bill was one of enormous importance, for it effected a revolutionary change in the system of licensing in this country. It would be quite easy for the Government to take the Finance Bill first, because it was by no means of such an important character as the Licensing Bill. The country required time to consider this measure, and he appealed to the Government to grant ample time for its consideration.
THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY (Sir A. ACLANDHOOD,) Somersetshire, Wellington
said of course his hon. friend could not expect him at a moment's notice to give a definite answer to his question, but he would certainly represent to the Prime Minister the views of the hon. Member and his friends, and when the House met again a definite answer would be given. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would ask a question when the House met, and then a definite date might be given.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House do now adjourn until Tuesday, 31st May.—(Sir A. Acland Hood.)
§ Adjourned at twenty-five minutes after Seven o'clock till Tuesday, 31st May.