§ That they have agreed to—Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, with out Amendment.
§ Message to attend the Lords Commissioners; the House went; and, having returned; Mr. Speaker reported the Royal Assent to a number of Acts. (See Col. 1789).)
§ Question again proposed, "That this House at its rising to-day do adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd October next, and that for the remainder of the session Government business have precedence at every sitting, and at the conclusion of Government business on each day Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House with out Question put."1825
§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON
resumed his speech, maintaining that there was no evidence of anything in the nature of premeditation in connection with the Denshawai affray. A brutal assault was committed by the villagers, but they were provoked by what they might well have considered a trespass on the part of the officers. Mr. Findlay's assertion that the evidence was sufficient to convict six of the accused persons of murder was absurd; there was no murder. The blow doubtless might have pre cipitated the collapse, but he ventured to say that the officer would not have died of the blow had he not made the gallant run he did. It was clear that Major Pyne-Coffin could not have supposed that the officer was dangerously wounded, or he would never have ordered him to run six miles to the camp to bring help. It must not be forgotten that they were dealing with a very primitive people, who were exasperated, and were fairly quarrelsome at all times. Granting all that, it was not a murder. If the official who had asserted that any English jury would have found the first six prisoners guilty of murder, believed what he said, he was unfit to hold office anywhere in the British Empire. If he were not to be believed in what he said he was equally unfit to hold office. It was this egregious official who, in a letter in the White Book, had passed what must be termed a presumptuous censure on this House. It was he who figured on the one hand as grossly misrepresenting an act that was not murder at all, and then, on the other hand, as a person entitled to pass judgment on the House of Commons when some hon. Members protested against the affair. Yet that official had been allowed to publish his censure. It ought to be in the power of the Foreign Office to say what they thought about the matter. The official had been guilty of one of the grossest attempts to put a false aspect on the matter, and he had further falsified the facts when he said deplorable effects had been produced in Egypt by what was said in this House. The deplorable effects were produced by the executions. This was the old spectacle of an incompetent bureaucrat attempting to put the blame for blunders upon everyone else rather than where it properly 1826 lay—on himself. The official was in fact, trying to bluff this House. In view of the publication of this letter as an official letter he was sure the right hon. Baronet would admit that whatever he might think of the position in Egypt the House was bound to say something in its own defence. This was another illustration of that which occurred during the South African War, when every species of rational or humane criticism on the conduct of the war was met by the cry that the critic was helping the enemy. They must say nothing whatever, when their country's fortunes were in grave danger, against the men endangering them, because you might encourage the other side. They had seen what amount of sincerity underlay that kind of argument. They had seen a responsible politician broadly hinting to an old enemy that he was expected to rebel. Broad hints had been given to the old enemy that he was expected to dismiss all the British in the Civil Service of the Transvaal. Politicians who took up that point of view would, he supposed, still condemn him for asking the House to condemn what had been done in Egypt. He would recall to the House the admirable line of action that was recently taken by the Secretary of State for India in a somewhat similar case. Through an official miscarriage an appeal made by a man under sentence of death was not received by the authorities to whom it was sent until the man had been executed. In that case what happened at most was a very grave informality, and it involved no serious miscarriage of justice; yet the Secretary of State passed a grave and serious censure upon those concerned. Why could not a similar censure be passed in the far more serious, atrocious, and lamentable case of these executions in Egypt? There were, he supposed, two reasons why it should not be passed. First there was the official point of view. The officials in Egypt apparently supposed there was a need of terrorism at the present time, and that in dealing with crime they must do more than suppress it and deal out just punishment; in fact, that they must resort to what had been most justly termed in another direction methods of barbarism, and 1827 terrify by wholesale slaughter for an act which would here rank as homicide. The only justification was the old plea that they must leave the matter in the hands of the man on the spot. He knew no more absurd line of action than that the man on the spot was to be trusted because he was the man on the spot. They knew this man on the spot in the past. History showed that he was a wrecker of civilisation, a bungler in his business, and at all times a false prophet. The whole process in this case could be summed up thus: it was an act of revenge for not displaying a want of due respect towards a body of British officers, and such an act was sure to be applauded by a number of politicians who stood with equal devotion for religion in the schools and revenge in the forum. Mr. Findlay, the gentleman who said that any British jury would have found those men guilty of murder, said the brutal attack on British officers had nothing to do with political animosity, but that it was due to the insubordinate spirit sedulously fostered during the past year by unscrupulous agitators. Here was a village in Egypt where, so far as they knew, all the inhabitants were illiterates, and in no way could have been affected by any agitation that went on in the journals of Cairo. It was another false pretence of the bureau cratic party. Mr. Findlay, describing the trials, said there was no trace of panic or vindictiveness. He ventured to say there was no trace of anything else. If the taking the lives of four men for one act of homicide, the flogging of eight others, and the sentencing of others to penal servitude, was not an act of vindictiveness, no act of vindictiveness ever took place in human history. The very well-intentioned course of the Secretary of State in begging this House not to discuss the matter, and his reasons for giving that advice, had not helped to improve the situation. The right hon. Gentleman brought a sort of sweeping charge against the fanaticism of the people of Egypt. What had been the result? Already the people of Egypt were not only outraged at the bloodshed, but outraged at the right hon. Gentleman's allegation. They declared that there was no other country in the world 1828 where there was less exhibition of fanaticism. If some of them had been in this House during the debates on the Education Bill they might with the same amount of plausibility have applied a similar comment upon the affairs of this country. There was far more fanaticism in India at the present moment than in Egypt. The whole judicial episode would have been impossible in India; and no Indian official, however misguided or wrong-headed, would have ventured to say that such a proceeding was justified. In this connection they might recall the very strong feeling in Japan against the introduction of an alien civilisation fifty or sixty years ago. Brutal assaults upon foreigners were frequent, and more than one Legation lost a member from this cause. Legation buildings were set fire to, and the assassinations were of a very savage character. There was then, if ever, ground for panic, and some display of vindictiveness on the part of the white population; but no one ever proposed to the Government of Japan that it should resort to public executions or any species of torture; and human life in Japan was now as safe as anywhere in Europe, because panic was not allowed to rule, and the officials were not led to become, as they usually did in such cases, cruel cowards. What could be said of civilisation in Egypt when such proceedings as these could take place? Even Lord Cromer proposed that there should be in future a revision of the sentences of this abnormal tribunal. Well might Lord Cromer propose it. The tribunal had no code whatever, and was free to inflict any punishment. Lord Cromer further suggested that it would be well to stop flogging, but there he was in opposition to Mr. Findlay, who thought that there should be flogging; because, as he put it, the Egyptian was a fatalist, and did not greatly fear death. In that case, the executions were doubly indefensible. There was no reason for thinking that offences against the Army of occupation could not be duly punished by the tribunals that already existed in Egypt. Court-martial action of this kind ought not to be possible in Egypt or anywhere else. If an officer was assaulted why could the matter not be dealt with in the ordinary way? In the past such acts had been 1829 severely punished, and again and again after such offences had been met by due punishments, attempts had been made on the official side to secure more exemplary punishments. The military authorities always seemed to have the idea of making an example of someone. With regard to the financial administration of Lord Cromer, that was above his criticism. He had greatly improved the condition of Egypt altogether, and praise was due to him upon that score. That, however, was no reason for putting Lord Cromer above the law. They had heard a good deal about the danger of putting trade unions above the law, and it was just as dangerous to put Lord Cromer above the law. The action of the authorities in regard to the execution in Egypt would have been reprimanded in any other part of the Empire save Egypt. The great deeds of Lord Cromer were no reason for permitting under his control acts of mere revenge which were unworthy of the traditions of the British Empire.
§ MR. MOLTENO (Dumfriesshire)
said he would like to say at the outset of his remarks how warmly he welcomed the statement that the Government intended to confer upon the Orange River Colony a similar measure of self-government to that which they had conferred upon the Transvaal. That announcement would allay any feeling of doubt and suspicion that had arisen in South Africa as well as in this country. He wished to express his regret that the hon. Member for Oxfordshire had stated that the Dutch were engaged in a seditious propaganda in South Africa. They had it on the authority of Lord Milner that the Dutch had frankly observed the Vereeniging Treaty. Personally he had had a great deal to do with South Africa and he knew of no such state of things as that which had been asserted by the hon. Member, and he deeply regretted that such a statement had been made in this House. With regard to the Denshawi executions, upon a former occasion the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs asked the House not to criticise that incident until they were in possession of the facts. To-day they were in possession of those facts, and he trusted that in what he had to say he would not be 1830 unmindful of the difficulties which those who administered the affairs of Egypt had to meet in the discharge of their duties. He did not, however, think that the man on the spot was the person who ought to be entrusted with the policy and the principle which ought to be administered in Egypt. Those were matters which ought to be settled in this House, and they could not escape from their responsibilities in regard to that matter. Therefore, he thought it was quite right and proper that they should discuss this matter. He did not propose to go into detail, but he would just state the salient facts. They had had four executions for one death, and they had reported to the system of flogging and public executions. He regretted that they had adopted that extremely hasty method of dealing with this question. What was the condition of the country? Was there anything to justify resorting to such extreme measures? It was a fair reflection of the position when they realised that this special tribunal, which was created in 1895, had only been called into operation once. It could hardly be suggested that these outrages had followed upon any serious outbreak of crime, or that the state of the country justified them in resorting to such drastic punishments. He found that this crime had been described as homicide with robbery. It was curious that Mr. Findlay described it as a particularly brutal and premeditated murder. He thought the punishments had been very excessive. Two persons had been condemned to penal servitude for life, and sixty years penal servitude had been divided amongst ten persons. Flogging had been carried out in such a way as to create a sense of honor to all those who read the Blue-book. Even Lord Cromer suggested that in future the decision of this special tribunal should be confirmed by some superior authority, and his Lordship did not conceal his dislike of this mode of procedure. He also proposed that the terms of the decree should be so amended as to permit in the future punishments of this kind to come under the penal code. Where the ordinary law did not permit these punishments to be carried out they should not be allowed 1831 to resort to this special tribunal. He hoped the Government would give their support to the suggestions which had been made by Lord Cromer. He would also like to know if the Minister for Foreign Affairs could tell them what sort of defence was set up by the prisoners. He should also be glad to know whether the evidence given at the trial would be forthcoming. Then there were the circumstances attending the death of a native. A native was found with his head broken open, and apparently a court of inquiry was held to go into that subject. Had that inquiry been concluded and what was the result? [Cries of "Divide."| The tone of the despatch as far as Mr. Findlay was concerned seemed to him to be wholly unsatisfactory, for he used certain threats if they adopted the course of discussing these matters in the House of Commons. It did not seem to him to be quite proper for any officials to make threats of that kind to this House.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir EDWARD GREY, Northumberland, Berwick)
The hon. Member who has just sat down has corrected an omission in the speech of the hon. Member for Tyneside, when he referred to the appeal which I made on a previous occasion not to discuss this question. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire pointed out that I asked the House not to discuss the matter until we had full information before us. The hon. Member for Tyneside omitted that, and that was really the point of my appeal. The Court in Egypt was com posed of the highest Judges. It had come to a decision, after taking evidence for three days, on a very serious case, and if the House of Commons had rushed to the assumption, and had been un willing to wait for further information before it came to the assumption, that such a decision must necessarily be wrong, the effect must have been most prejudicial and must have conveyed the impression abroad that, the moment anything occurred which the House of Commons did not quite understand, it was at once assumed that the official on the spot was to blame. That impression I wished to avoid, and I have 1832 to thank the House for having responded as they did to the appeal which I made the other day. Of course it follows from that, that now the Papers are before the House, I do not complain of anybody exercising his right of saying what he thinks upon them. But I must demur to the suggestion that the anonymous letter, published in the Blue-book, addressed to Lord Cromer is to be put on one side. Lord Cromer is likely to be the best judge of whether such a letter is likely to be genuine or not. I read that letter with very great interest, and it seemed to me to bear on the face of it evidence that it probably represented, as nearly as you can get it from one person, the truth of the native mind. The first intimation I got, after we came into office, of restlessness — I do not want to use the word fanaticism if it is objected to—or of unsettled feeling in Egypt was in the very early days, at a time when we were one of four Powers in occupation of certain islands belonging to the Sultan because of difficulties which had arisen with Turkey about the Macedonian question. That fact had begun to have its effect in Egypt, and when you have conflicts of that kind with the Turkish Government—conflicts which, unfortunately, it is impossible for us to avoid—you may be quite sure it is bound to have a certain effect on the Mahomedan races who are under British rule or in countries under British occupation. Then there was the further difficulty about the frontier question—at one time a very serious matter—and, undoubtedly, any body who reads the Akabah Blue-book will see that it is perfectly natural, and indeed inevitable, that there should have been restlessness and an unsettled feeling created by these occurrences. I think that in time that will pass, but it has been necessary already to increase the garrison in Egypt. That was done some months ago, and, undoubtedly, if that feeling were to spread, we should have to take the further measures to which Mr. Findlay refers for still further increasing the garrison. It was that sort of step which I wished to avoid, and that was why I deprecated premature discussion in the House on this particular question. The nature of the speech of the hon. Member for Tyneside makes it necessary for me to 1833 say one or two words on a personal matter in connection with this subject. I regret much of the language which was used by the hon Member for Tyneside. Surely if your officials have done wrong, you can criticise them without calling them constantly "cowardly officials."
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
No. The hon. Member applied it generally, but those terms were constantly used throughout the hon. Member's speech.
§ MR. J. M. ROBERTSON
There was no constant reference to cowardly officials at all. There was no imputation of that kind against the officials in this case, and I only spoke of Mr. Findlay because he had, in a letter which the right hon. Gentleman has published, made an attack upon this House.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY
I will come to Mr. Findlay in a moment. But there were other expressions in the speech of the hon. Member which I think were equally unfortunate. If you are to assume, where you think a mistake has been made, that your officials in general are likely to be guilty either of moral or intellectual deficiencies, and if you are to assume and to adopt the tone that they have done wrong, you are undoubtedly adopting a tone which would make it quite impossible to conduct the business of the British Empire. Let me come to the question of Mr. Findlay. I think the hon. Member for Tyneside has mistaken the character of the particular telegram from Mr. Findlay with which he found so much fault, and which, I could not help thinking, was in part responsible for the tone of much of his speech. I think that if he had not regarded it as a provocative telegram, his own language would have been softer than it was. I do not think it was so intended by Mr. Findlay. I did not take it so. I did not take it at all as a criticism of the House of Commons, but at a statement of the effect which, as Mr. Findlay said, it was his duty to make. If I made a statement, or used language in this House which had a prejudicial effect abroad, I should expect 1834 the officials of the Diplomatic Service to inform me of what that effect had been, and I should consider it their duty to do so. Mr. Findlay was, in my opinion, quite rightly performing his duty in saying what the effect, as a matter of fact, and not of criticism, of certain proceedings in the House of Commons would be on the spot, and I think he was bound to say so. One of the difficulties of governing the British Empire is that criticism of what is done in various parts of the Empire is always certain to have a disturbing effect on the spot. That is not always the paramount consideration, but the officials on the spot ought to let us know what it is, because it is one of the elements which we must take into account in forming a judgment. I might, on some future occasion, find it my duty to use language in the House which I knew would have an unfortunate effect in a particular country abroad, but which, for graver considerations, I thought it necessary to use. I should expect our representative abroad to tell me the effect on the spot, but I should reserve to myself the decision of whether that was or was not to be the paramount consideration. In this case Mr. Findlay was bound to point out what the effect of discussion in this House would be; and that leaves it to the House to decide whether that effect should be the paramount consideration or not. I do not think he has gone beyond his duty in stating the fact. As Mr. Findlay has been attacked, I must say that his whole career in the Diplomatic Service makes us sure that he is a man of character and ability who is fitted to render useful service. As to whether the telegram, if sent, ought to have been published, I knew that it was not sent for publication; but I had promised the House the fullest information; I wished to edit these things as little as possible; and I published the message in order to give the House the full truth, so that they might bear the consideration in mind. I left it to the House to consider what weight it ought to have with them, just as Mr. Findlay left it to me. The House should take it as a statement of fact, and not as criticism upon itself—the placing before it of 1835 facts which, however disagreeable, ought to be borne in mind. As to the trial itself, I have promised that the evidence shall be published; but it is quite impossible that a case of this kind, which has been tried by the highest tribunal in Egypt, should be retried in the House of Commons with some Members for the defence and some for the prosecution. The House may say— Is it impossible that any decision of this special tribunal should be reconsidered? The tribunal corresponds to what over here would be a tribunal of the Home Secretary, the Lord Chief justice, and other Judges; and I do not see how you can have any legal appeal. But from any tribunal however high there should be some room for appeal to the prerogative of mercy. Another point is the question of holding executions in public. At best I think it is a very doubtful expedient and should never be resorted to except in the rarest cases; and flogging in public I should say should never be resorted to. As to the nature of the punishment which this court might inflict under the decree, that decree was passed only eleven years ago. This is the first serious occasion on which it has been brought into operation; and I think it is quite natural that certain defects in the decree should be disclosed. Lord Cromer, after reviewing the whole of the proceedings, has dealt with all these points and has suggested that there should be certain modifications in the decree; and they will receive the prompt support of His Majesty's Government. For the rest, I entirely agree with Lord Cromer's interesting memorandum re viewing the whole case. I agree with his opinions. I agree with what he confirms as well as with what he suggests for modification. But when we come to the question of responsibility in Egypt, it is not so easy to talk about "the man on the spot"In Egypt as in some other cases. It is assumed that the man on the spot is always wrong. Sometimes he is wrong, and the consequences are bad. Sometimes he is right, and the consequences are still bad, because he is not listened to. But in Egypt the responsibility is very difficult to state. Egypt is not a Crown colony. It is governed 1836 under the Khedive by a Government partly of natives and partly of British officials, and the whole Government has the most complicated machine behind it —the British occupation. But Lord Cromer's guiding principle has been to advise in matters of general policy, but to interfere as little as possible in matters of administration with the actual working of the machine itself. As to certain matters he is absolutely powerless. In the first place, where European interests are concerned, the power lies not in his hands, or in those of the Egyptian Government, but, under the Capitulations, in the hands of fifteen different Powers. In the second place, all questions connected with the Mahomedan religious and special judicial institutions are outside his control altogether. In the third place, all civil and criminal matters are administered by Judges who are for the most part irremovable and who are entirely independent. These are serious inroads on responsibility, and if anyone were to study on paper what the Egyptian Government is, combined with the British occupation, they would come to the conclusion that it is an unwork able system. But Lord Cromer h s succeeded in making it work for many years. But it is very complicated, and on any question of administration as apart from policy, it must be exceedingly difficult to say where and how the responsibility is to be placed. If you wish to simplify this state of things, one course would be to turn Egypt into a Crown colony. But that means an enormous change involving great political changes quite out of the question—such as the disappearance of the Khedive and other things affecting the whole international situation. I put a change of that kind out of account. It is not within the range of practical politics. Or you might simplify the question of responsibility by leaving Egypt again to native rule, or, rather, what it would soon become, to Turkish administration. The responsibility would then be simplified, but the result would not be satisfactory. And no one thinks of that course any more than of turning Egypt into a Crown colony as a matter of practical politics. The question of the Chinese Customs—a most important point—has 1837 been raised. With regard to Sir Robert Hart, we have had no information that he intends to resign, and I am not in a position to say what his intentions may be. I assume that when he does resign he will take some more direct method of intimating the fact than that which has hitherto been staled in the Press. With regard to the Chinese Customs, I do regard it as most vital in the interests of trade, in the interests of Chinese revenue, and in the interests of Chinese credit, that the administration of the Customs should be maintained on the lines on which it has been so successfully worked hitherto, and that it should be maintained as an efficient and honest administration. Chinese progress is intimately bound up with the maintenance of the Chinese Customs on the lines laid down by Sir Robert Hart, and that is a subject which will receive the close attention of His Majesty's Government. On the question of the Baghdad Railway I have no statement to make. That railway is a German concession. One section of it has been made. I admit it is an enterprising and important undertaking. If, later on, cither this country or other Powers interested in that part of the world are to be brought into the matter, it will be because they are brought in by agreement with the German interests. When the Germans wish for participation, then will be time enough to discuss whether any countries, and, if so, what countries, should participate, and if so, on what conditions. With regard to the in crease of the customs duties in Turkey, I will only say we have not yet agreed to that increase. It is true we have stated certain conditions on which we are prepared to agree. If we do agree it will be for a limited period of years, and I think the time to discuss whether our action was right or not can only arise when we have taken definite steps and can place our policy before the House.
§ MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith Burghs)
said his object in rising was to ask the Secretary for Scotland as to the nature of the Bill which he had introduced the other day in regard to land legislation. He understood that it was based upon compulsory purchase, but 1838 he now understood that it was based not upon compulsory purchase, but compulsory leasing, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could clear up any doubt upon that point. The Bill not being in print, it was not possible to ascertain its objects with certainty. He did not rise to criticise the provisions of the Bill, but having served on the Small Holdings Committee he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep his mind to some extent open in order to ascertain more clearly upon the evidence which that Committee had taken, whether greater flexibility could be secured in regard to the small holdings which might be set up. By flexibility he meant this. In one part of the country they had freeholders established, in another they had yearly tenants, or they might have a system of feuars, as they termed them in Scotland, who were there under permanent conditions; If a system of permanent leasing was introduced they would have to create a comprehensive system of rules and regulations and the system must be based upon dual ownership. He believed that dual ownership was the worst possible form of tenure. He therefore laid great stress upon this question of flexibility, and he thought it would be very disastrous to the success of small holdings if that flexibility were wanting. The State could perfectly well purchase the land required, whether for small holdings or for the holdings contemplated by his right hon. friend in his Bill. The lands should be purchased upon a large and adequate scale, and where small holdings were required a great deal could be done in the way of organisation. That should be started in suitable centres rather than upon any scattered scale throughout the land, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman would find opposition to his proposals if he took the opportunities of purchase as they offered. Some of the owners might object to purchase, he thought wrongly, because in his opinion it was a proper check upon the vagaries of particular owners, and every farmer, he was afraid, would object to a proposal by which he would see other people put down upon his farm. Desiring as he did most earnestly the creation of small holdings, he could not conceal from him self that, compulsory leasing being the 1839 basis of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised if he took full advantage of the Report of the Small Holdings Committee which had not yet come to hand.
§ *MR. MORTON (Sutherland)
called the attention of the Prime Minister to a grievance which existed in a district (Elphin) in Sutherlandshire. Early in the year a petition was sent from this district to the Postmaster-General asking for a telegraph station as there was not one within about twenty miles. In reply the people were asked to guarantee the whole of the expense, £100 per annum, whereas they had been promised in the debates arising out of the Budget, that two-thirds would be borne by the Department. The Prime Minister had said that we ought to colonise our own country. The right hon. Gentleman's statement was greatly welcomed all over the country, and the carrying out of it would greatly aid the settlement of the "unemployed" question, and he (Mr. Morton) hoped that it would have the immediate attention of his right hon. friend. In Sutherland increased postal and telegraphic services were urgently needed, and ho hoped that the Prime Minister would see that the poor crofters in Sutherland were treated as well as the rich people in other counties. He also wished to know on behalf of the hon. Member for South Gloucestershire whether the Home Secretary proposed to legislate upon the question of vaccination. Vaccination was a very trouble some question, but at least all parties should be treated equally before the law. With regard to the land question in Scotland which had been raised by the hon. Member for Leith Burghs, he did not propose to go into that further than to say that the Scottish people seemed more anxious as a rule to rent than to purchase land. There should be compulsory renting of the land with the option, if necessary, of compulsory purchase, the object being to induce the land owner to let at a fair rent with fixity of tenure and no unfair conditions.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. GLAD STONE, Leeds, W.)
replied that the present condition of the law was extremely 1840 unsatisfactory, and he would be glad to see it amended. But the Home Office only had to administer the law as it stood. He believed the whole administration of the Vaccination Act was under the consideration of his right hon. friend the President of the Local Government Board.
§ THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Mr. SINCLAIR,) Forfarshire
said he recognised to the full the cordial support Sir Arthur Bignold had given to the main provisions of the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill. In him everybody recognised a progressive and enlightened owner of land who was desirous to open up the land, as far as possible for the benefit of the people of his own country. He was sorry that the Bill was not in the hands of Members, but the delay would only be brief.
§ MR. SINCLAIR
Probably. As he had said before, they wished to open up the land in the interests of the country, and that could only be done gradually; the Bill attempted nothing else, and it held out certain inducements which, in the belief of the Government, would mean progress in that direction. But the Bill rested mainly upon agreement, and it was hoped that the adjustments might be carried out largely by agreement. It was only where agreement was found impossible, and where, for instance, there might be unreasonable refusal on the part of one of many interested in the land, or where one might be unable or unwilling to give his consent, that the exercise of compulsory powers came in, and then only after careful examination by public authority of a semi-judicial character, with every possible safeguard for existing rights. It was agreed on all hands, at any rate on the Ministerial side of the House, that compulsion, in some form or other, was absolutely necessary. It was certainly the experience of those bodies who had worked land legislation in Scotland that without compulsion in some form or other their whole efforts could not be properly and successfully developed. The question raised to-day was, should 1841 there be purchase, or was it possible to attain, the object in view by compulsory letting of the land? If so, must they transfer the whole ownership of the land, or was it possible to transfer the use of the land in the public interest? Looking at it from the point of view of the public interest, what were the conditions under which small holdings might have some prospect of being successful? As his hon. friend hid suggested, there must be some regard to markets, communications, transport, and security of tenure, without which combination would not be under taken for this purpose. All these objects so far as he could see, could equally be achieved by a system of compulsory letting as by a system of compulsory purchase. Then there was the land owner's interest. He did not think he was wrong in assuming that in a large majority of cases the landowners of the country were willing to let their capital remain in the land, even under the new conditions, if the return to them was going to be equal under the new conditions to what it had been under the old. Why then force them to remove their capital? The obstacle hitherto to the development of small holdings had been the initial obstacle of expense.
§ MR. G. CROYDON MARKS (Cornwall, Launceston)
called attention to the fact there were not forty Members present.
§ House counted and forty Members being found present.
§ MR. SINCLAIR,
resuming, said there had been endeavours to overcome the obstacle of expense, as hon. Members would see when they studied the pro visions of the Bill, if not wholly, at any rate in part. In contrasting again the system of purchase with the system of letting, he would point out that under the system of letting the landlord was relieved from his outlay on repairs, and got a net rent, while a return was secured to the tenant, who was all the time improving the interests of the land, and if the land was sold in the public interest then the landlord reaped his share, and the largest share of the increment, in the capital value of the land. So much for the public interest and the landlord's 1842 interest. They were familiar with the system of purchase, and his hon. friend had expressed his view of the system of compulsory leases as a rigid and not flexible system. Under the Crofters Act he thought there had been more renouncement of tenancy in the taking of poor and the larger holdings, more interchange of occupancy of holdings, than had been possible under any system of land purchase. Added to that, the amount of capital needed for the holding was much less in the case of the occupying tenant than in the case of the owner; but on the whole there was good ground for the belief in Scotland that for the needs of Scotland a system of occupying tenancy was certainly desired. In conclusion he expressed the hope that hon. Members would be good enough to reserve any final conclusion until they saw the Bill in print.
§ *MR. ESSEX (Gloucestershire, Cirencester)
invited the President of the Local Government Board to state whether in a short period of time he would pass under review the present Poor Law system of the country. The separation of aged couples in workhouses was a scandal and an outrage. Then the system which obtained throughout our rural villages of compelling sons and daughters to contribute to the maintenance of their parents in workhouses, often inflicted hardships upon people who out of very slender earnings had already to provide for a family. He did not for very good reasons move the reduction of the Vote when it was under consideration, for he would much rather address his plea to the right hon. Gentleman's heart.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
assured his hon. friend who had just sat down that his right hon. friend the head of the Department was well aware of the condition of things to which reference had been made, for he had had the advantage from sitting next to his right hon. friend of seeing the notes he had taken in. legible hand writing. Postal facilities in the Highlands also was a matter of which he had no doubt the Treasury realised the importance while having regard to the general interest of taxpayers. He made a little 1843 appeal now to the House, after the olla podrida of the day, including some little matters and others of great importance. Mr. Speaker had been in the chair for a long time during a great many days and nights and he was sure was anxious to be relieved from his duties for a time. It was convenience to have Mr. Speaker and the overburdened officials of the House to put this plea upon, while all the time it was themselves who wished to get away; but from Mr. Speaker downwards they all wished to go, and unless there was any matter of such urgency to raise that it could not go over till October he appealed to hon. Members to consult the feelings and comfort of their fellow Members by bringing the discussion to a close.
§ MR. SEDDON (Lancashire, Newton)
said he would willingly respond to the Prime Minister's appeal, but asked two minutes in order to call attention to the disorders in Widnes on a question of a right of public meeting in a public square. The right of meeting there had never been questioned until the last few weeks. The dominant Party on the bench was very sore at the great turnover to the Labour Party at the last election, and they had bee persistently summoning people to the Court. He was given to understand that when he left this House he would lose his privilege as a Member, and would become a prison guest of His Majesty. He was afraid that there was likely to be public disorder in Widnes if the Home Secretary did not see his way to use his good influence to secure again the right of public meeting which had been enjoyed for long years in the square.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
said that the facts stated by his hon. friend were not within his knowledge, and he had no control over either the local police or the magistrates, but he would certainly make full inquiry, and he would be glad if he could promote a settlement of any question threatening the public peace.
§ MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)
said he wanted before the House separated to make an appeal to the Prime Minister that during the recess he and the officials should consider the possibility of effecting further saving of lime in the taking of divisions. The House was very grateful for what had been done in saving time and labour in tramping through the lobbies. Could we not now take a step further? We decided questions by a majority. Why not do as all other public bodies do, vote by show of hands or by standing up, only actually dividing when there was not an un questionable majority visible to the Chairman? Many days of valuable Parliamentary time would be saved in this way in the course of a session, and "the time of Parliament was the treasure of the people." Was not our time more precious instead of less precious than that of other public bodies, none of whom wasted the time in divisions that we did.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That this House at its rising to-day do adjourn until Tuesday, 23rd October next, and that for the remainder of the session Government business have precedence at every sitting, and at the conclusion of Government business on each day Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put."