§ Mr. F. E. N. ROGERS () wearing Court dress
said: In rising to move that a humble address of thanks be presented to His Majesty for his most gracious Speech from the Throne, I am very conscious of the difficulty the task entails, and I would venture to throw myself frankly on the indulgence of this House, at once the most critical, but at the same time the most generous of all assembles. Sir, the characteristic note of His Majesty's Speech, 15 in so far at it relates to the international situation, is one of peace and goodwill. The relations of His Majesty's Government with those of all foreign countries continue to be friendly, and I am profoundly thankful that that is the case.
I am persuaded that His Majesty's recent visit to Berlin and his cordial welcome in that city will tend to dispel any misunderstandings or misconception of motive which may have existed in some quarters in recent years on both sides of the North Sea. For the great mass of both nations I am convinced that a frank understanding and agreement is what they most of all desire. There are no outstanding causes of dispute between England and Germany; all that seems to be required is for each nation to credit the other with what it claims for itself—honesty of purpose and sincerity of profession. I am glad to think that the turn of events in the Near East gives promise of a peaceful ending to a situation which has from time to time looked rather threatening. In this House—the oldest Parliament in the world—I feel I am on sure ground if I say that all our sympathies go out to the Constitutionalists in Turkey, engaged in their arduous task of guiding the first uncertain footsteps of an infant Parliament. The reference in His Majesty's gracious Speech to South Africa is of a character which must provoke heartfelt thankfulness and pride. I rejoice at the approaching unity of the South African Colonies. There are some chapters in South African history which I can only look back upon with feelings of profound sadness and regret. She is not one of those countries of which it can be said that her people owe any part of their happiness to the fact that they have had no history. But these events are passing into the categoryOf old unhappy far-off things, And battles long ago.Now a brighter day is dawning. The twin stocks of British and Dutch are on the fair high road, I believe, to fuse together under the British flag into a common Africander nation. And I think their union will be none the less real and lasting, because it is based on mutual respect, because behind it there lies the common memory of many stricken fields. Sir, I am glad to welcome the successive paragraphs in the Speech which refer to arbitration treaties with several foreign countries. Not only has a complex problem, of long standing, such as the North 16 American Fisheries question, been successfully referred to this method of adjudication, but I think I am entitled to claim that the prominence given to the subject indicates a growing sense of the value of international arbitration as a method of solving international disputes. In the case of the agreement arrived at with the United States on more than one subject, I recognise with gratitude the services rendered by one, who was for many years a member of this House, some time a member of this Government, and at all times a friend of peace, and now His Majesty's Ambassador at Washington. There is an interesting reference in the Speech to the disastrous calamity in Sicily and Calabria, which has evoked such profound sympathy from the whole civilised world. We in this country have been for years united to the people of Italy by ties of friendship and goodwill. The districts afflicted are some of those most famous in history as the cradle of art and early commerce and ancient civilisation. For these reasons, as well as on general grounds, the House will, I think, be glad to remember that in the time of their sore trouble the Italian people received such timely and substantial assistance from the British Navy and the British mercantile marine.
I am very glad to see it stated in the Speech that the programme of reform in India has met with a good reception. The task of ruling our Indian Empire is a gigantic one. It tests, as in a furnace, the highest governing capacity of our race. But the most signal proof of our capacity to rule India will be given, and our greatest victory won, if we can gradually, prudently and yet courageously associate the people of India in the task of Indian government. Such a measure of reform as Lord Morley outlined last Session in another place may well be expected to enlist on our side the spirit of law-abiding and constitutional reform, and to dissipate the forces which make for anarchy and outrage.
I turn now, Sir, to the programme of legislation foreshadowed. The Irish Land Bill is the same Bill which was read a second time last Session. There is no subject which has been more continuously before Parliament than that of Irish land, or one in which anything approaching finality seems more difficult to attain. It would be too much to hope that legislation on this subject could be anything but controversial, but as a well-wisher to Ireland, I trust it may be found possible this Session 17 to advance by legislation the cause of land purchase, and so to allay in Ireland the unrest and agitation, in so far as that unrest is caused by the bitterness of hopes deferred. All parties are irrevocably committed to a policy of land purchase. For my part, I shall be glad to co-operate in any attempt to make land purchase a reality.
The Welsh Bill I regard as an effort to redeem a pledge given to Wales many years ago to bring about a system of religious equality. It has been asked for at every election in Wales for over twenty years by overwhelming majorities. Today I believe it is supported by every Member from the Principality. I would disclaim with emphasis any attitude of hostility, any feeling of rancour, directed against the Church, but I would express with equal emphasis my conviction that the connection between Church and State belongs rather to yesterday than to to-day. Where such a connection does not exist as a matter of history and tradition, I can hardly imagine anyone desiring to create it. I would add that in my view the vitality of every Church depends not on its State privileges or State patronage, but on the place it holds in the affections of the people. And that place will best be assured to the Church by her sympathy with great causes, by her support of all social movements which aim at uplifting and enlarging the status of human life.
I notice with much interest the suggested amendment of the Pensions Act, intended, I suppose, to remove some anomalies which have come to light in its administration. May I assure the House, as a Chairman of a Pension Committee, which has dealt with nearly 5,000 claims, that these anomalies are very few. It is right that they should be removed, but the great bulk of the cases have been simple and straightforward. The House may rest assured that the pensions have gone into the homes of those for whom they were primarily intended—viz., the industrious and frugal poor, who, by the exercise of a life-long thrift, of the character of which few of us have any conception, have reached the age of 70 years without coming to the Poor Law. But I would like, Sir, to express an earnest hope that before long the relations which are to exist between the Pension Scheme and the Poor Law should be clearly and accurately defined in order to remove what is to-day by far the commonest cause of hardship, the exclusion without exception of all in receipt of relief. I would 18 also take this opportunity, Sir, of paying a tribute to the admirable work done in administering the Act by the Government Departments concerned, by the local pension Committees, and by the Pension Officers. The case which came under my notice of a pension officer, who spent the best part of his Christmas Day distributing pension books in his district and declared that the blessings showered on his head rendered it the happiest Christmas he had known, illustrates very well the spirit in which all concerned have worked to make the Act a success. Perhaps the House will allow me to say, as essentially a rural member, that my main interest in the Housing and Town Planning Bill is a concern for the housing difficulty in the rural districts. I am not in the least over-stating the case when I say that in many villages things are steadily going from bad to worse. Houses are pulled down and are not rebuilt, they are burned down and are not replaced. Those that exist are frequently neither sanitary nor sufficient in accommodation. I am not imputing blame to any class. Many causes are at work—social, economic, and political. The facts remains. The villages steadily shrink in population, and men leave for the larger centres, not always because they want to, but because they cannot make a home in a place where no home for them exists. I wish the right hon. Gentleman the best of fortune in this his second attempt to pass his Bill.
The measure foreshadowed in the Speech to attempt to deal with sweating in certain trades has my cordial sympathy. It must be a task of some difficulty to create a Trades Board, representing employers and employed, in industries where little organisation of the latter class exists. But I have no doubt that the time is ripe for action, and that the public conscience has been deeply stirred by the revelations of successive enquiries. The existence in our midst of a class of workers, more particularly women, underpaid, underfed and overworked, unable by incessant toil to achieve even the most modest standard of subsistence, that central undeniable fact, Sir, I say, is now more and more coming to be regarded as a danger to national efficiency, a blot on our national escutcheon, and an offence to our common humanity.
In conclusion there is a rather ominous reference in the Speech to the increased expenditure of the country, and the increased revenue thereby rendered necessary. I will not attempt to anticipate pro- 19 posals not yet divulged nor embark on any speculations as to where new sources of revenue are to be found. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has many advisers. But, Sir, I would say this: In common with other countries we find ourselves under the necessity of raising fresh revenue for national purposes, mainly in our case for the proper maintenance of the Navy and the better treatment of old age. Shall we not console ourselves with this reflection—that whatever sacrifices are required they will at any rate be made to fulfil the two chief functions of a modern State, the security of its existence and the happiness of its people? I beg to move: "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD BENN,
who also wore Court dress, in seconding the Motion, said: It is not merely a desire to conform with custom which moves me to ask for the very fullest indulgence of the House in the task which I have to perform, but the knowledge that to me it is one of overwhelming difficulty. But although I recognise its difficulty, I am grateful that it has been imposed upon me, because I recognise that it is an honour done to the constituency I represent, and because it gives me an opportunity of thanking the Government for including in the King's Speech a reference to some reforms dealing with problems with which London is closely concerned. I refer more particularly to that reference to the reform of Parliamentary and registration areas in London. I hope that may mean the intention of the Government to make London one Parliamentary area. At present, as we know, London consists of an agglomeration of some twenty-nine cities and boroughs, and how distinct and how divided they are is clearly shown by the fact that merely by moving from one street to the next a man may lose for nearly two years the elementary right of citizenship. We shall welcome a Bill which shall remove this disability. We shall welcome it because it would be good in itself and we shall welcome it more because it is a step in the direction of making London one city. We 20 are face to face with what some of us regard as a very alarming fact. We have rich areas growing richer and poor areas less and less able to support the burden put upon them. What we look forward to is to see London one city, with the privileges and burdens of citizenship equitably distributed. I should like to refer also to another Bill which touches the interests of London and other large urban areas—I mean the Housing and Town Planning Bill. This Bill was very fully discussed in its preliminary stages last year, and, I believe, no one who has watched the growth of slums on the outskirts of our great cities can doubt the wisdom of putting into the hands of our local authorities some powers of preventing a repetition of those mistakes in existing areas which lie at the root of so many of our social problems. I would like to refer also to the re-introduction of the Bill dealing with Irish land. This adds another to the list of measures by which this Parliament has attempted to do something for the benefit of Ireland. For my part, and speaking only for myself, I should like to say that I look forward to the day, which I hope may not be distant, when a thorough solution of the Irish problem may be sought in restoring to the Irish nation the right to manage their own affairs. The gracious speech also refers to Welsh Disestablishment. It is hoped by a measure freeing the Church in Wales from State control, alike to quicken her beneficient activities and to promote among the religious bodies of the Principality that unity of spirit which fosters the growth of true religion.
I turn and I am sure the House turns with gratitude and interest to those portions of the gracious Speech which deal with the insistent problems of the age, poverty and unemployment. These social disorders arise from causes so numerous and so diverse that it would be idle to suppose that we could find one single remedy for them all. It is a hydra-headed evil, and we have to grapple with every one of its ugly aspects. But we rejoice to know that the Report of the Poor Law Commission has been prepared. Some of us have been impatient to receive it, but the delay will not be regretted if the Bill presents in true perspective a proportionate view of the whole problem, so that the Government will be able on the one hand to propose measures avoiding emergency or panic legislation and, on the other hand, they can go forward confident in the knowledge that every step taken is in reality a step towards the desired goal. It 21 seems to me that it would be necessary to do something to divide into various groups those who make application for Poor Law relief, and to deal with each group in a manner appropriate to their needs and deserts. We have on the one hand that large class of poor people who after a strenuous life and an honourable life find their old age overcast by the shadow of the workhouse. I am sure it is a source of gratification to all classes to know that the passing of the Old Age Pensions Act of last year has shed on their declining years the warm comfort of a cheerful day. Amended and extended I hope that Act may increasingly relieve this branch of Poor Law administration. Then there is another totally different class—that of habitual vagrants. The sternness of perish relief does deter many of a self-respecting type, and perhaps deserving, but it has no terrors for the tramp, to whom it is merely a case of exercising an ingenuity by which he tries to live in more or less comfort on communal charity. It is quite clear that that class must be dealt with in a more drastic fashion.
Then I turn to the problem of underemployment. We have a great unskilled labour market which is not able to provide enough work for the strong and active men who fill it, but is crowded also with weak and infirm, with old men and boys, whose competition there tends to lower the standard of life and to debase the labour currency. Then we have a great demoralised army of casual labour, apathetic and aimless, with no pride in the present and no hope in the future. This is indeed the most difficult and baffling phase of the whole problem, but I think we may say that a great step in advance has been taken—an immense step—by dealing with it on a national basis. It may be hoped that the new network of agencies which are to be set up may do something to diminish the dimensions of the evil, both by confining the supply to those districts where the demand exists and, perhaps, by training the boys to a higher point, so as to divert them to higher ranks of employment, and perhaps by absorbing some of the surplus and unskilled labour in works of real national utility. The King's Speech refers also to another phase of the poverty problem—that touching sweated industries. As a general rule wages and conditions of labour are matters which can be adjusted with a fair measure of success between employer and employed. But in 22 some trades the conditions are such and the workpeople—often women and children—are so weak and unable to combine, that they cannot protect themselves. A well-considered measure for setting up boards to regulate these employments will not only do something to help those who are unable to fight their own battle, but something which in the long run will be of benefit also to the industries concerned. So far, Mr. Speaker, I have referred only to those portions of the Speech which touch home affairs, but I desire to associate myself with everything the mover has so eloquently said as to the friendly relations subsisting between us and foreign nations. It is on such friendships that the prosperity of our commerce and the well-being of our workers are ultimately based. Moreover, the records of this House show that those periods in which we have been compelled to expend our energy in wars abroad have been sterile of reform at home. Peace is the first interests of social reform, and we are fortunate in that for so long the wisdom of Parliament has been able, unharassed by foreign complications, to be concentrated on these pressing problems. Perhaps in no previous Parliament has so much interest and sympathy been shown on all sides in the "condition of the people " question. If we accept the dictum of a famous Member of this House, that "a nation lives in its cottages," new Members like me may feel some pride to have sat in a Parliament which has attempted so much for the national welfare. Much of the coming Session is to be devoted to kindred endeavours, and though I recognise the complexity of the problem, the elusiveness, yet persistency of the evils, I for one have not lost confidence either in the sympathy of this House or in its power to find adequate remedies. I must apologise if I seem to have dwelt too long on the references to social reform. I can only say that these questions continually confront those who represent, as I do, the very poor. To give a new turn to an old phrase, the appeal of poverty, once it has been listened to, never ceases to be heard. It is with a feeling of great gratitude to this House for their patient hearing, not untouched by a sense of personal relief, that I conclude by begging leave to second the motion.
Motion made and question proposed, "That a humble address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne."
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I think I rightly gather from the reception which has greeted the two speeches which we have just listened to that the whole House is unanimous in applauding the tact and ability the two hon. Gentlemen have shown in moving and seconding the Address. I, who have a very long experience of such speeches, have to admit that I never heard speeches more successful in their general arrangement, in their compression, in the fulness of the matter which they contained, in the clear enunciation of the opinions of their authors, without anything which would wound those who happened to differ from them in respect of the matters dealt with—that I never heard speeches more successful in carrying out those objects, and conscious as I am and we all must be of the great difficulty of the task thrown upon the hon. Gentlemen on this occasion, I think we may all most heartily agree in giving as explicit utterance as we can to feelings of complete approval. It is my duty, my traditional duty, to go through such topics in the Speech from the Throne as would seem suitable to the occasion, and to touch gently upon such other topics as may seem to require some special notice. With regard to foreign affairs which, in this, as in all other speeches, take precedence of other matters, I have really nothing to add, and I am sure I cannot improve the statement made by the hon. Gentleman who moved the motion. He referred to our relations with foreign powers in terms with which I most heartily agree, and I do not think I can add anything to them. I think the House will admit that during this Parliament, and in the years preceding this Parliament, there has been a steady resolve, as far as possible, to withdraw foreign affairs from the arena of controversial politics. It is quite impossible, of course, for any universal principle on this subject to be laid down. The right of criticism which Members of the House possess must under certain circumstances become the duty of criticism, but when there is, as there happily is now, so clear a case of continuity of foreign policy between two administrations differing in so many and in such important matters, I should regard with great dislike any necessity which were thrown upon me of dealing in too critical a spirit with very difficult matters which the Foreign Ministers of this country have perpetually before them in the complex relations of this great Empire. I am glad to think no such necessity arises on the present occasion, 24 and I have no comment of a hostile character to offer to any steps which, so far as I understand them, have been taken by the Government and by the right hon. Gentleman who presides over the Foreign Office.
I confess there is one paragraph which I do not criticise, but which I read with some slight surprise and misgiving, which is that in relation to Persia. That the democratic constitution, which I understand by the paragraph is to be introduced under the pressure and interest or the joint pressure and interest of England and Russia, upon an Oriental State, is to be a cure for all the economic and commercial difficulties from which we suffer in the country, seems to be rather a sanguine view of the situation. I do not know that the remedy will be found in effect very easy to apply, and I am not sure, when it is applied that it will be found altogether effectual. But I admit that the problem of Persia is one of enormous difficulty. It produces such perplexing questions that if His Majesty's present advisers see a way by which the interests of Great Britain, the interests of Russia, and interests of Persia can all be combined in one harmonious policy, I shall be delighted to hear of it. It my turn out that the description given in this paragraph does not entirely accurately delineate the character of the ultimate solution of the Persian Question. However, I do not really criticise it. If the right hon. Gentleman really does see his way to carrying it out, he has my good wishes, and I hope he will be successful. As I read the paragraph about India my only comment is that when the Government advises His Majesty to say that "the reception of measures designed by my Government for improving Indian administration has given me deep satisfaction," we really do not yet know in detail, as far as I am aware, what those proposals are. We should all be glad to see any real well-thought-out scheme by which the best Indian opinion can be brought to the assistance of the best European opinion in order to cope with the enormously complex problem of Indian administration. But I do not understand either in the speech of the Secretary for India or in the Blue Books which have been presented to and possibly read by the House on that subject, that we really do know in detail what the plans of the Government are. As I read the statement of the Secretary of State for India, an immense amount 25 is to be left to regulations of which we know nothing, and everything may turn on the nature and character of those regulations. I hope the Prime Minister will tell us what opportunity he proposes to give us for discussing not merely what is described in the Speech as the Bill which deals with matters to which the sanction of Parliament is asked, but will deal with the whole policy of which the Bill only represents a part. It certainly would be desirable to have the complete policy before us, and if we are to judge of part of that policy it must be in the light of the policy as a whole, and I do not see how we can possibly judge of the Bill which is to be laid before us for discussion unless some latitude is given in debate for dealing with the whole proposal of the Government at home and the Government of India.
The other point in connection with external affairs relates to the happy events which have recently taken place in South Africa, and there again, though I probably should not agree with the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address, if we were to discuss the whole of South African history for the last ten or twenty years, I agree most heartily with the conclusion at which he has arrived, that conclusion being one which has ever been before Gentlemen on this side of the House when they were responsible. I do not think that what has occurred could be better described than in words which fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, who prophetically told people of the country what it was to which he looked forward. It was five years ago he said:—We may confidently anticipate, for the first time in the history of modern South Africa, Dutch and English will work together for a common purpose and for the good of their common country. But I go further, and I expect more than that. It is my hope that in the near future provincial feeling will give way before a wider conception of national destiny, and our Dutch fellow-subjects will share with us our sense of responsibility in our possessions, and petty differences which have hitherto divided us will be lost in the wider circle of Imperial interests and obligations.
§ Mr. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the admirable manner in which the leading statesmen—Dutch and English—in South Africa, men who have been in the sharpest conflict in times not long gone by, have combined in a common interest to carry out a great national and Imperial object, is worthy of 26 all admiration, and is producing, and is likely to produce, most admirable fruit. I now have said all I think it necessary to say with regard to that part of the Speech from the Throne which touches on foreign and Colonial questions, and I come to the second part of the Speech, not, indeed, more important, but which comes more closely home to the habitual controversies which go on within these walls. I notice that the paragraph addressed especially to this House is couched in terms. which have no precedent, as far as I know, in all the history of Speeches from the Throne dealing with finance. It must be a matter of the deepest disappointment to those who, when they constituted the independent Members of an Opposition, were never tired of denouncing expenditure on the Navy, that they have been compelled by necessity to put in a paragraph which states that the expenditure this year will be considerably in excess of the expenditure in the last twelve months, especially when you remember that the expenditure of the last twelve months is in excess of anything which was spent by the late Government. It is not merely that the Government have now got to deal with the cost of old age pensions in a full measure, but much of the work which they propose to do in strengthening the Fleet ought to have been done in the preceding years, even in the year in which old age pensions were but a portion of the burden which was going to fall on the country, when the Naval Estimates were by the confession of the Government themselves being starved—even in that year the expenditure of the country was in excess of the expenditure of any Government which preceded the present one in time of peace. I am sure the Government regret it, and I am sure every taxpayer regrets it. But I am not going into detail on a subject like that, especially as the Government themselves point out in this paragraph that much of the energy of Parliament in the next six months will be directed to financial questions of necessity. But it is significant that whereas the last year, under the circumstances which I have described, exceeded all its predecessors in the strain thrown upon the taxpayer, this year the strain is so great that the programme of legislation has necessarily been cut down in order that the House may have ample time, which I hope will be given it, for dealing with the finan- 27 cial proposals of the Government. I do not ask any questions at the present moment with regard to the first of the two causes mentioned in this particular paragraph for the exceptional strain upon our finances in the course of the coming year—namely, the additions to the Fleet, and the Government must be aware of the great anxiety which all these naval problems are now exciting in the country, and I suppose we shall have ample opportunity in the next few weeks of raising them in detail. The question is not merely connected with the two-Power standard and with what I may call the broad issues of national defence, but also with questions having reference to the constitution and arrangement of the Fleet and other matters to which public attention has been actively addressed, and in which it is greatly interested; but I shall defer further criticisms on these matters until we come to the Naval Estimates, which, I presume, shall not be long delayed.
On the subject of old age pensions I may say a little more. The Government passed their Bill in July. Six months have since elapsed, and they find it necessary to amend it. The question is complicated under any circumstances, and I don't wish to press that too strongly. But may I remind the House of the circumstances under which it was discussed? Under the excuse that it was necessary to save Parliamentary time the Government pressed the measure through by methods which are very familiar.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
They are, indeed. I need not go into the merits or demerits of the proposals made or the question of the amount of time, but the fact remains that this Bill, which, after having been in existence for six months, has now to be amended, was pressed through the House, and never did get adequate discussion, and it was sent up to another place at a time when discussion in that place could not adequately be carried on owing to the near approach of the recess, and owing to the necessity of giving time in the Autumn Session for the preparation of the regulations without which the Bill would necessarily have been ineffective. Not only that, but the deliberate determination of the Government was to refuse on grounds of privilege every amendment, even though it was a good one, which had been put in in another place. Well, I think that is a very poor way of saving 28 Parliamentary time; and I do not think, even taking the Bill as it is, that this House has any reason to pride itself upon the excellence of its legislative methods.
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the address to the Throne told us that his experience in Wiltshire as chairman of a Committee proved that practically the money went into the right pockets. I am delighted to hear that that is so in Wiltshire, and I hope that it is so in other parts of the kingdom. Rumours have reached me that in one part of the kingdom, at all events, the numbers in receipt of this money, whether they are right or wrong, have staggered the statisticians, and that in Ireland, at all events, the number of people who have proved that they have reached the age of over seventy years and have never received Poor Law relief is of an abnormal and extraordinary character. Nobody who has studied the population statistics of that country can reconcile the number of pensions given with the number of pensions owed. We have not had statistics on the subject, and I don't know whether statistics have been prepared, but I am sure it is a matter which must deeply interest the right hon. Gentleman who is responsible for finance, and, perhaps, either he or the Prime Minister will tell us how that matter stands, and whether there is any difference betwen Ireland and Scotland in the matter, which cannot be accounted for in other ways, as regards the number of pensions respectively given in those two countries. The matter is one of great importance. If in an important portion of the United Kingdom there is not a really rigid examination of the claims of those who ask for these pensions then the abuse is immense and the unfairness to other parts of the country is immense, and I think that the general public corruption which would follow would be incalculable. I have a much stronger criticism to make upon the policy of the Government in this matter than the mere existence of anomalies which might be referred to if I had time to discuss them, or defects of machinery which it is possible to remedy. I really think it is deplorable—and the more I have considered it during the last few weeks the more deplorable I think it is—that with these tremendous problems before them of dealing with the sick poor and the aged poor in this country, they should have rashly gone into this particular form of dealing with the pensions, before they had in their hands the report of the Com- 29 mission to which reference is made in the Speech. If only on financial grounds, it is impossible, or ought to be impossible, to divide one part of the problem from another. The right hon. Gentleman rejoices, and everybody rejoices—I don't think there is a dissentient voice—that the deserving poor over 70 should be singled out. But everybody is equally aware that persons over 70 who really deserve pensions, and who are obliged to seek for medical relief under our Poor Law system are excluded from the benefits of the Act. The infirmary to which they have to resort is the workhouse infirmary, or the Poor Law infirmary. The Poor Law machinery for dealing with the sick poor is absolutely the only machinery in large portions of the country to which the aged poor can have recourse. Therefore, you cannot separate the problems of the aged poor, to whom medical assistance can be given only through the machinery of the Poor Law. The whole thing is together; and I think that the limitations of your scheme, limitations of age, and limitations as regards health, are so unfair, that it showed the clearest want of breadth of view to try, without reference to these matters, to deal with one fraction of this problem until you knew what your whole problem was. I don't say that the Government should have deferred dealing with any part of the problem until they could deal with the whole of it, because in this world, even in questions of such importance, I admit that if you are never to deal with any problem until you can deal with the whole of it at once, you would probably be prevented from dealing with it at all. Surely, that is common sense. It is also common sense when the resources with which you have got to deal with these problems are in the nature of the case not unlimited, and when you have not the least notion how you are going to deal with these other parts of the problem, or how the particular solution you have adopted for the part you have dealt with is going to dovetail into the parts you have not dealt with then you are not acting the part of these wise men who take on great problems in parts and deal with them in parts with a view of the whole. You are rash men who are using in one respect, which may not be the wisest, the resources which ought to be used to carry out some great scheme, which will embrace not merely the aged poor over 70, but those who, through no fault of their 30 own, though under 70, cannot work. You should deal with the workman suffering from sickness, the man who, though under 70 years of age, is incapable physically of earning a livelihood. You should deal with him as well as with that narrow and arbitrarily marked-off class to which alone the Bill of last year can bring relief. I deeply regret the course that the Government have taken, but, they have taken it, and I am very glad they make no promise this year of any law dealing with the Poor Law. We have had too much of this hand-to-mouth legislation.
The question of the Poor Law is so complex, and I am convinced will require so much care and thought on the part of the Government that attempts to deal with it, that I should regard it as an absolute calamity if the Government even if they could absorb all the learning in the reports which they have got already in their possession, were to say that they would be in a position in the course of this Session to offer a solution of the most important of all the questions with which this House is likely to be called on to deal as regards purely internal policy. I go on now to another paragraph in the speech which is also couched in language for which, so far as I know, there is no parallel in our history. The paragraph is this:—"A measure will be proposed for the better organisation of the labour market through a system of co-ordinated labour exchanges with which other schemes for dealing with unemployment may subsequently be associated." When the Government puts into His Majesty's mouth a paragraph like that, I want to ask the Government what effect it has on the course of debates in this House. It is a well established principle that no amendment is moved to the Address upon any subject which is to be dealt with by legislation. If the Government has promised legislation dealing with unemployment it would, therefore, be out of order, I suppose, to move an amendment to the Address on that subject. Does this constitute a promise of legislation. Does it constitute a promise within the meaning of the Standing Order, or of the traditional practice of the House? When the time comes I may perhaps put a question, but I will not do so at present, although it must be evient that this is a question of great and pressing importance. For my own part, I look forward with the deepest interest to that thought-out scheme which I think the Prime Minister 31 promised us, and which was to go to the root of the unemployed question. Last Session we passed a measure—
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not denying that he sought to deal with the problem of unemployment last year.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Certainly I did not. I made a speech on a Bill—I think that is what he has referred to, for it has been quoted—which was rejected by the House.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Really there is no difference between us. The Government last year brought forward palliatives. They not only provided money, but established a department to tide over the time of distress. The Prime Minister promised a scheme which would go to the root of the matter. I do not know whether he promised it this Session—at the moment I thought he did; but, if he denies it, I do not mean to press him on the point. At any rate, he promised it in the course of this Parliament. He said that before this Parliament came to an end, some thought-out scheme would be brought forward which would go to the root of the unemployed question. I have tried to find out what kind of scheme the Government have in view, from the utterances of their members, that is going to the root of the unemployed problem. I do no tbelieve so far they have any scheme at all before them, and none of the schemes that I have heard suggested seem to bear a moment's examination. I do not profess, on my part, to have a scheme that will go to the root of this problem, but I am certain that no plan which does not try to increase the amount of employment for skilled labourers can be really effective. You do not deal with the unemployed question by asking skilled artisans to plant trees, because they do no not know how to plant trees, and it is wasting their time to ask them to do it.
Then there is coast erosion. How are you going to deal with the unemployment problem by coast erosion? (An HON. MEMBER: "Why not put a tax on corn?") There are two things, at all events, which every Government ought to try to do, but this Government has tried to do neither of them. The first thing is that they ought to do their best to increase the confidence of the investing public in works in 32 their own country; and the second thing is that they ought to try to obtain every information they can possibly get in regard to extending our foreign markets and our external markets, in which the skilled workmen of this country are so much interested. I do not see that the Government have done either the one or the other of these two things. Rightly or wrongly, the Government are accused of having shaken confidence—(Ministerial cries of "Oh, oh.")—of having by rash speeches and perhaps by rash actions driven capital abroad and with having made the investor believe that this country is the last place in which he ought to invest his money, and that the last workmen who ought to be provided with employment are his own countrymen. As for our external markets, it seems to me an act of folly to reject any method by which you can bargain with other nations; and when you can obtain a preference in your own Colonies for your own products it is folly to adopt a policy which deliberately rejects every expedient of that kind. The folly of this policy has become more and more obvious to everybody who is not hidebound in formulæ which have no foundation whatever in any sound political economy, but are merely an inheritance from ancient speeches and writings appropriate to an utterly different condition of things to that which exists in this great industrial country to-day. Of course, I do not pretend for a moment that even if the Government had been wiser than they have been both in respect of maintaining the confidence of the investor, and in meeting our Colonies in regard to preference and obtaining means of bargains with foreign nations, there would be no unemployed within our shores. I do not mean that even then there would be a complete solution of this question. A complete solution is not to be obtained by those or any other methods, but, at all events, those are methods which have some prospect of really ameliorating the state of things which now exists.
I do not think as regards the promises made in the King's Speech I need say anything more, but I still have a duty thrown upon me by the traditions of this House to make some criticisms upon the administrative action of the Government. I shall confine myself to a few points, and make them as shortly as I can. I think it was my ill-fortune last year to have to refer to the extraordinary action of the Education Department with regard to a school at Swansea. I thought it a great scandal then, but the scandal then 33 is absolutely nothing to the scandal now, and I appeal on this subject, with some confidence, to every man in this House who cares for education, whatever his views may be on the religious question, upon voluntary schools, rate-aid, and all those other controversies which have torn us asunder for so many years. The case can be put into a very few words. There was a voluntary Church school at Swansea, and the Education Department tried to squeeze that school out of existence by administrative methods by insisting upon an amount of expenditure upon buildings and playgrounds which could only have for its object that of destroying the school to meet the prejudices and views of the local authority. The money burden thrown upon the managers was enormous, but the money was found, and that was the condition of things last year. In addition, the local authority refused to pay the salaries of the teachers, and for many months the salaries had to be advanced by the managers admittedly contrary to the law, and the Education Department did not seem able to sum up courage enough to have the money refunded. Time went on, and the next thing that happened was that the local authority insisted that the salaries given in this school, for the maintenance of which they were responsible, should be on a lower scale than the salaries in the neighbouring schools giving the same kind of education and ministering to the same type of population under the same local authority. That was absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Act which governs education in this country, and clearly and avowedly it is so. The managers protested; they asked for an inquiry, but the matter dragged on, and the Education Board were as slow as if they had been in a Court of Chancery under Lord Eldon. The thing hung fire for two or three years, and finally they had an inquiry into this gross abuse. They sent down a man admirably fitted for the task, and the Government must have thought he was fitted for the task, because they subsequently made him a judge. He went down and reported, as everybody knew an impartial judge must report, that the local authority were violating the spirit of the Act, and that they ought not have cut down the salaries below the level of the district. His report and judicial inquiry was made in public and under an Act of Parliament, and yet the Government deliberately set it aside. That briefly is the story. What are the inevitable comments we are driven to make? 34 That the Government having failed to carry through any of their Education plans, they are determined to revenge themselves upon the voluntary schools. I remember the Prime Minister coming down to this House on the day upon which it became clear that the Bill of last year would not pass, and in words of deep emotion telling how deeply he felt his inability to settle, peaceably, this long-standing controversy. I certainly did not doubt his sincerity then, neither do I doubt it now. He has allowed his subordinates—or perhaps he knew nothing about it, I suppose, for a Prime Minister cannot look into the details of the administration of every department—or at all events his subordinates, very undoubtedly committed a gross act of administrative injustice against a Church school because it was a Church school; and because it was denominational, in order to appease an undenominational local authority. They have done so against the spirit of the Act of Parliament, against the inquiry of a man sent down by themselves, and whom they have since made a judge. I think that a lamentable performance. The consequences did not end, and cannot end, with the act itself.
This House has been accustomed to entrust departments with quasi - official functions, believing, and hitherto believing with justice, that when you entrusted them with quasi - official functions, the Department of State, no matter who was the Parliamentary head of that department, or to what party he belonged—those quasi-official functions would be administered judicially. Is that ever going to be thought of the Education Department again after this gross miscarriage of justice? Who can doubt that politics and vindictive politics had an influence? The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech the other day in which he protested against the absolute unreason of supposing that he was ever going to be responsible for a vindictive Budget. He has no right, and his colleagues have no right, to complain of such a suspicion when their action is on the face of it vindictive in dealing with a case like the Swansea schools. There is, no man will deny, who knows or cares anything of education, that having in a district two schools with a different scale of emoluments for the teachers must be bad. Everybody admits that and that is what the Government perpetuates, and means to perpetuate, because the school 35 was a Church school, and for no other reason.
There is only one other administrative point, the last topic on which I shall touch—Ireland. Nothing is said about Ireland in the King's Speech—except that the Government means to press forward a Bill—upon which I may make any comments now. But I do not think the Bill is likely to do much in the direction of carrying out that policy of land purchase which I think the mover expressed so warm an interest. What is the condition of Ireland under the government, or non-government, of the right hon. Gentleman? The subject will doubtless be discussed more in detail before we finish this Session, but it may not be out of place to very briefly indicate to the House the kind of change that has gone on in Ireland since the right hon. Gentleman became the manager of Ireland according to Irish ideals. I find that agrarian outrages have more than doubled since the present Government came into office. There were 234 in 1906; there were 537 for 11 months of 1908. Agrarian outrages done by firearms rose from 20 to 128, while Gentlemen opposite have been controlling Irish policy—well, not controlling it, but responsible for it! Indictable offences on property have risen from 20 to 85 for 11 months. The number of boycotted persons increased more than fivefold. At the end of 1905 there were 162; at the end of 1908 there were 840. The persons under constant police protection have risen from 41 to 79—practically double. The persons protected by patrols of police have risen from 167 to 272. The amount of compensation for injuries—of course, we have not got the latest statistics—has enormously risen. Cattle-driving cases, which were bad enough in 1907, being 390, rose in 1908 to 660. The offence was remember, unknown before the hon. Gentlemen came into office. The cost of extra police in 1906 was £500; for the year ending March 31st, 1908, it was £10,000. These are bare statistics, and bare statistics cannot, of course, to those who do not know the country, be clothed in flesh and blood. It is difficult for those who do not know the place to see in imagination all that has gone on, is going on, and, if the present Government retains office, will go on. I am utterly unable to understand the principles on which the Government are acting. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, with that 36 happy air that he possesses in so eminent a degree of increasing the general confidence in home investments, told a Liverpool audience that no man who had a stocking would invest a shilling in Irish land. I am afraid it may be true. It is not, perhaps, a good preface, a good motto for the speech of a member of the Government that is introducing a Bill for—how much is it?—£180,000,000, primarily on the security of that Irish land which no one who had a stocking would invest in.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd-George)
They bear the Government guarantee.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Has the right hon. Gentleman at all thought that the Government are in any way responsible for the condition which makes it so absurd for a citizen of the United Kingdom to buy any land in a portion of the United Kingdom? I quite agree that there are many things for which this Government, and no Government within historic memory, is responsible. I quite agree that the difficulties connected with Irish land are rooted in the far, far past. It would be unreasonable for any Government to be expected to cure these at once and by a stroke. But I am bound to say that I think part of the difficulty is due directly to the utterly lax administration of the present Government. How can anyone invest in Irish land when they know that after they had got the land they would not be allowed to cultivate it in the manner in which they want, and that they will be compelled to cultivate it according to the view of the noble landlord! Who is going to invest in Irish land with a view of working it, or of superintending the working of it, when the present Government, for some reason which no one has ever been able to explain, allowed the Arms Act, which Lord Morley so sedulously preserved when he was Chief Secretary, to lapse; so that, as I am told, it is now firearms which are imported in immense numbers in all the disturbed portions of Ireland. (An HON. MEMBER: No.) Well, that is the story. (The HON. MEMBER: It is a story.) I believe it to be true.
We know by the statistics that outrages caused by firearms have largely increased in recent years. Who is going to invest money in Irish land? Who would not prefer the traditional stocking when he knows that if he does invest in Irish land that his cattle will be driven, har- 37 ried from field to field, from district to district, and that the only consolation that he will have will be some almost scoffing reference by the representatives of the Government in their place at the misfortunes which have befallen him. There were some thousand cases of cattle-driving in 1907–8. I do not say that one thousand persons engaged in cattle-driving. I believe the exact number of the cases to be 1,050. Proceedings were instituted in, I think, 162 out of the 1,050 cases. And have the Government, even in these cases, or in any of the cases, used all the machinery at their disposal? We have heard Lord Morley praised in all journals, at all events in all Unionist journals, for the vigour with which the Indian Government are putting into force in these days regulations made in 1818. This Government have had an Act of Parliament in force, passed within the Parliamentary career of many gentlemen sitting here who strongly objected to it being placed on the Statute Book. I say it is plain, elementary, axiomatic, that a Government is bound to use the powers it has at its disposal for the protection of life and property.
I do not see how the thing is arguable. I have never heard it argued; I have heard an excuse. What is the excuse? The excuse, as far as I understand it, is this: that the Chief Secretary and his friends resisted the Crimes Act of 1887, that they have always denounced it subsequently, and that they refused to use an Act which they resisted in this House, which they have attacked. I do not call that an argument; I do not think it is even an excuse. Are we seriously to be told that people are to lose their lives and their property, that a man is to drive six miles to get a loaf of bread to keep himself alive, simply because the Chief Secretary formerly made imprudent speeches? Are we to be informed, not merely by a Radical Government, but by a Radical publication office, that this cult of consistency, which I do not see in all their actions, is to be carried so far that, because they made certain speeches, took part in certain divisions, and resisted certain measures, they are, therefore, not to carry out the elementary duties thrown upon them by the legislation of this country for the protection of the elementary rights of citizens? The thing is really unarguable. If they are so fond of consistency, let them go back to some of their other speeches. I daresay they have made violent speeches against the Crimes Act since 1887; but they made 38 violent speeches in favour of a similar Crimes Act in 1885.
Let us go back to Sir George Trevelyan's speeches in 1885; let us go back to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's speeches when he was Chief Secretary in 1885. If they are so fond of consistency, if they are determined to "Hansardise" themselves, if they are so determined to live up to their old utterances on this subject, let them go back to a happier time, when they will find speeches as strong or stronger in favour, not merely of the general principles of law and order, but in favour of very precise provisions which are absolutely adequate, or, at any rate, largely adequate to deal with this situation, which they could put in force tomorrow, but which they refuse to put in force for reasons never yet explained, I confess that, of all the administrative laches and other which I attribute to the present Government, their administration of the Government of Ireland in the last few years is the worst; it is the worst and the greatest of all their lathes. They have never defended it. The statistics I have quoted are the statistics drawn from answers given by the Chief Secretary himself. He knows the truth of every statement I have made, because every statement I have made has been drawn from his own replies. He knows, therefore, what the condition of Ireland is; he knows perfectly well that there are parts of Ireland where one set of courts have any power or can command any section, and these are the Courts of the Land League.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I do not envy the wit—if it is wit—which finds a topic of amusement when a serious indictment is being made against the Government, who, refusing to protect those who have a right to claim their protection, who withhold the machine of the law from the weak, truckle to the strong.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I have discussed the question of Irish crime in much more disorderly Houses, and against much more violent but not more preposterous or unseemly interruption than that which the hon. Gentleman has just made, but the strength of my case I do not think has been injured thereby. However that may be, 39 I have put the case before the House as far as seems necessary on the present occasion, and my accusation against the Government with regard to the administration of Ireland is that by their lathes they have been deliberately allowing the law to fall into disrepute, rights to be violated with impunity, in many cases life to be destroyed, and in still more cases life to be made intolerable. That being so, they are guilty of the greatest of all crimes a Government can commit—the crime of not carrying out the elementary duties for which Governments exist.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman has covered a wide area of ground in the course of his observations, and he is entitled and perhaps bound to do so on the first night of the Session, when the misdoings of the Government, which have been accumulating on this occasion for about six weeks, naturally require somewhat extensive treatment to do justice to them. I shall endeavour to deal seriatim, but I hope with greater brevity, with the points which the right hon. Gentleman has made; but in the first instance let me have the satisfaction of associating myself most heartily with him in the very graceful and most well-deserved congratulation which he made to my two hon. friends who discharged so ably and tactfully perhaps the most difficult duty that can fall to any Member of this House. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in a Parliamentary experience which, though not so long as his, is now somewhat protracted, I have never heard that responsible duty more admirably performed than it has been upon this occasion. My hon. friend who moved the Address is a man trained by graduating in the school of local administration. My hon. friend who seconded the Address is the son of a very respected and highly esteemed colleague of ours, and we are delighted to find that he is carrying on into the second generation that combination of mature sagacity of judgment with the spirit as well as the aspect of perpetual youth. The right hon. Gentleman devoted the earlier part of his speech to what was a dispassionate and not a controversial treatment of those topics of external interest with which the earlier paragraphs of the Speech from the Throne are mainly concerned. With regard to Persia, I should like to say this: The state of things in that country is exceedingly unsatisfactory, and goes, I regret to say, almost 40 week by week, certainly month by month, from bad to worse. There is throughout Persia general unrest and unsettlement. In some districts the authority of the Shah and of the central Government is set at open defiance. (An HON. MEMBER: "Ireland.")
I will come to Ireland presently if the right hon. Gentleman will restrain his impatience. Trade is everywhere hampered, in many parts almost altogether paralysed. We are not seeking proprio motu to import into the East, for the troubles there, Western remedies; we have no original responsibility in the matter; but in our view there is no hope of improvement until the Shah keeps the promise he has made to his own people to establish representative institutions on a firm basis. Our desire continues to be, as it always has been, to follow a policy of non-intervention in Persian affairs, but it is impossible to ignore the danger that the continuance of the existing chaos and disorder might provoke in some form or another outside interference. We have, therefore, in conjunction with the Russian Government, more than once given advice to the Shah to fulfil the pledges he has given to his own subjects to set up a Constitution. We cannot go beyond giving that advice without becoming involved in the more direct intervention which it is our wish to avoid. The House may be assured that we shall not become party to making any loans, or in any other way giving support to the Shah, so long as he continues his present disastrous policy. We are, and have been, in frequent communication with the Russian Government, whose interests are closely and directly involved, for their frontier borders on one of the most disturbed parts of Persia. We are glad to find their general views of the situation are in agreement with ours.
Although the right hon. Gentleman, for reasons I thoroughly appreciate, did not himself refer to the topic, I do not think I should be doing right if I did not say one word on the development of matters in the Near East of Europe. We have been doing our utmost to secure a peaceful solution of the difficulties which have arisen, and we shall continue to do so. I am not using the language of flattery or of exaggeration when I say that no man in Europe has worked more assiduously at that difficult and beneficent task than the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. And here I should be wanting in my duty if I did not acknowledge on behalf of His 41 Majesty's Government the statesmanship and moderation with which Kiamil Pasha, the late Grand Vizier, has conducted the negotiations of Turkey with foreign countries during these months of difficulty and danger. We hope that his successors will continue his policy, which appeared to be on the eve of securing a settlement, so far as Turkey is concerned, with both Austria and Bulgaria, by a compromise honourable to all concerned and not disadvantageous to Turkey herself. There are still what I may call outlying problems less formidable in their apparent magnitude, but calling none the less for prudent and sympathetic handling in regard to Servia, Montenegro, and Crete. The agreement as to the principles of settlement between Turkey and Austria, and Turkey and Bulgaria on the other hand, is of good omen, and has materially improved the prospects of peace. I made allusion a moment ago to Persia, and we are not fully aware of the circumstances which during the last few days have led to a change in the position of the Government in Constantinople. Even if we were it is not within our province to comment on them. As far as the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire are concerned we have but one constant and consistent desire, which I am certain is shared by men and parties of all shades of opinion throughout this country, to see Turkey strengthened and re-invigorated by the reform of her administration and the development of her future on the basis of liberty and equality. Whatever Government adopts that policy will continue to have the cordial sympathy of this country, and we shall always be ready to give them any help which it is within our power to render in the working out of the difficult task of administrative reform.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the paragraph in the Speech which deals with India. He asked what are the legislative proposals as a whole which the Government propose to make and what opportunity will there be as a whole to consider them. I think that the scheme of the Government was not only outlined, but outlined and very carefully filled out in the speech which was delivered by the Secretary of State in another place shortly before Christmas. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman legislation being as it is necessary for the carrying out of the integral portions of the scheme outlined by the Secretary for India, there is certainly no disposition to withhold any possible facili- 42 ties for the discussion of the whole subject when that scheme comes to be considered. Sir, I was much gratified to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said in regard to the prospects in South Africa. I do not want to rekindle dying, perhaps extinct embers, nor controversy, but I could not possibly let the opportunity pass without saying that the condition precedent, the essential and fundamental condition for the attainment of the settlement which is now happily in sight, was the free, full and generous grant of self-government to the new Colonies. We are now happy to believe by the avowal of their own most distinguished leader of our one-time gallant foes in the field that they are now our loyal coadjutors in council and in policy. And in that way, and;n that way only, came peace, and thus as we believe consolidation and unity of South Africa will come.
Sir, coming nearer home, the right hon. Gentleman made reference to the unusual character of the phraseology of the paragraph of the King's Speech which is specially addressed to the Members of this House, and which deals with the financial year. I do not quite understand what was the gravamen of this charge made against us. He says we spent more money last year than was spent in the last year of his own Administration. That is only a very partial statement. If it be the fact—I have not had the time to refresh my memory — if the figures bring out that result, look at the fact that we have paid our way. I don't know to what item of the expenditure of the last financial year the right hon. Gentleman points—if as would seem his charge is intended to be a charge of wanton or unwarranted extravagance. The expenditure on the Army and Navy was reduced, and very substantially reduced, compared with the last year of the right hon. Gentleman's Administration. There were automatic increases, as there always must be, in other directions; but I am prepared to maintain, and I hope we shall have an opportunity of going into this matter in detail during the course of the Session.
I am prepared to maintain that it was by our prudent and cautious finance, the reduction of expenditure, the remission of taxation, and in the paying off of debt—it is by those methods we were able to approach the practical grappling with the problem of Old Age Pensions. Now, Sir, the right hon. 43 Gentleman's comments on that measure are singularly difficult to follow. What is his charge against us? He says all this is part of one great problem, and I thought he was going to say you have no right to deal piecemeal and in a hand-to-mouth fashion with one part of a problem which can only properly be dealt with as a whole, but just when the right hon. Gentleman's barque seemed to be sailing full speed in that direction he suddenly tacked, and said "Oh, no!" I do not say these problems must always be dealt with as a whole. Sometimes it is imperative to deal with things step by step and piece by piece; but what is the case made against us in regard to Old Age Pensions—what ought we to have done? Ought we to have delayed Old Age Pensions to five or six hundred thousand poor people that have been promised Old Age Pensions for twenty years? But now, thank Heaven, they have been in the actual enjoyment of them for the best part of two months. Ought they to have been put off for another twelve months or two years, until this gigantic report of the Poor Law Commission had been analysed, digested, and reduced into something in the nature of a complete legislative Act? That is not the view of His Majesty's Government. We thought it was our duty to deal with this perfectly separate part of the problem, as experience has shown—to deal with it first without any prejudice to the subsequent dealing with the other and more complicated branches which are most intimately connected with the administration of the Poor Law itself. The right hon. Gentleman made a curious error with regard to the relation between the Old Age Pensions Act as it stands and the Poor Law. In order to preserve complete liberty of action for the future we very unwillingly, from another point of view, introduced a disqualification—a temporary disqualification—arising from the receipt of Poor Law relief. The right hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken in his estimate of the extent and character of that disqualification. He seems to think a poor man or poor woman who is relieved by the parish doctor or even goes into the infirmary is necessarily disqualified from the receipt of an old-age pension. That is not the case. I will tell the House exactly how the matter stands on the authority of the Local Government Board. It is only chronic cases—the people who are workhouse paupers—who are disqualified. Ordinary 44 ailments or accidents—a broken leg or an attack of typhoid fever, to take two common typical cases—if treated in the infirmary do not disqualify, nor does outdoor medical relief of any kind. The House will see we have been most careful to limit the area of disqualification to those who, in the full sense of the word, in the present state of the law belong to the pauper classes.
Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has called attention—I confess, not without reason—to the extraordinary figures—for such they are—set forth with regard to the grant of old-age pensions in Ireland. I don't profess to understand them at all. Even making every allowance for every possible contingency, they seem to me, at any rate, to require investigation, and I can assure the House hon. Gentlemen from Ireland are quite as eager for investigation as we are. I am sure they do not want to be treated in a different respect in this matter from other parts of the United Kingdom. The matter is one which is engaging the serious attention of my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he is conducting an examination by the most skilful experts into a number of test cases in order to ascertain if there be any maladministration, or, come to what is its source, at any rate to bring the whole thing out into the light of day, so that the people may clearly understand what is being done. Now, Sir, I do not think I need apologise to the House for the necessity of introducing an Amending Bill. In New Zealand, where old-age pensions have been the law for more than ten years, I am sorry to say an Amending Bill was introduced every two years. When the House remembers the enormous complexity of the conditions with which we had to deal in this country, the total novelty of the experiment, the impossibility, as I have pointed out, of procuring in advance anything in the nature of actual data, really I do not think it is to be wondered at that some defects in the phraseology and even in the actual working of the Act should be discovered, and I am certain the House will with alacrity settle those defects and enable us to deal with remedial cases.
Now, Sir, the next point of criticism taken up by the right hon. Gentleman was in regard to what is no more than adumbrated on the subject of unemployment. It is quite true, and he was perfectly correct in saying, I last Session expressed the hope that we should be able this year, 45 partly fortified by the advice of the recommendations of the Poor-Law Commission which, through no fault of theirs, had not then reached us; we should this Session attempt to deal not merely by way of palliatives for passing symptoms, but to begin to go to the root of the question of unemployment. That is our intention. The phraseology of the Speech the right hon. Gentleman criticised was adopted expressly to indicate that intention to the House and the country. I am not now going to anticipate the provisions of the Bill which will be introduced. But when the right hon. Gentleman tells us we shall never get to the root of this matter until by some means or other we prevent British capital from going into foreign markets, I begin to think he has made some progress in that long, difficult, and untractable process of self-education, which the House and the country have now witnessed with so much interest for the last five years. British capital goes abroad, and thereby apparently unemployment is caused in this country. What is the British capital that goes to foreign countries? Where does it come from? By whom was it produced? What form does it take? It is not in the shape of gold or of paper, as the right hon. Gentleman used to know, and as I think he knows still. It goes in the shape of materials for the railways and docks of Argentina and other countries, which again, in their turn, employ British labour as well as foreign labour, and add enormously to the international trade between the different countries, and create reciprocal and additional employment in this country. But the right hon. Gentleman is really too kind to us. I do not claim for this Administration that it is in consequence of its policy that British capital has for the first time been exported to other countries. It was going on under his own Administration. If he will look at the figures he will see that during the last year of his Administration there was an enormous exportation of British capital to foreign countries—and a very healthy symptom it was; long may it continue.
Then with regard to "crochets about coast erosion." Has anyone on this side of the House put forward coast erosion, or even the prevention of coast erosion, as a specific against unemployment in this country? If I am not mistaken, the Commission on this subject, which, so far as this branch of the case is concerned, has not yet reported, was the result of action on the part of the right hon. Gentleman's 46 own supporters, who were alarmed at finding some parts of the coasts of this country slipping into the sea. Without any arrière pensée of Tariff Reform, we might reasonably hope that some practical steps might be taken in the matter. The next topic was the administration of the Education Act, and there the right hon. Gentleman confined himself to a single case—Swansea. He criticised the administration of the Department, but I do not quite know what the suggestion is. At one time it seemed almost to amount to this—that His Majesty's Government, disgusted and resentful at the failure of their efforts to settle, either by legislation or by compromise, the education difficulty, had determined in a spirit of vindictiveness to visit their disappointment and wrath upon a particular school in Swansea, and that my right hon. friend, who carried the olive branch to all the churches last autumn, set himself deliberately, spontaneously, and of his own initiative to work what the right hon. Gentleman described as a "gross and flagrant injustice" upon the Church of England school. Is that the suggestion which is going to be levelled against us? There is no response. I want to know what the accusation is. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman what are the facts. They are these: In this particular school a lower scale of salaries was fixed than in the Council schools in the same district. Is that peculiar to Swansea? Is that a state of things which did not exist prior to the passing of the right hon. Gentleman's own Act? I go further. Is it a state of things which does not exist now under the law as passed and amended by the right hon. Gentleman? Will anyone tell me that there is a legal obligation, under the right hon. Gentleman's Act or any other, upon the local authorities of the country to make the salaries in all the schools under their control the same and identical?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I daresay they are, and a very excellent thing, too. I am not speaking in favour of starving salaries; I am speaking of the law. The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer, and he knows very well that this is purely a legal question. The Board of Education had no initiative in the matter at all. It was a quarrel between the managers on the one hand and the local authority on the other, and the Board of Education was simply in- 47 voked as a Court of Appeal. To speak of my right hon. friend as though he had deliberately stirred this matter up for some purpose of his own is a complete travesty of the facts. Acting as a court of appeal, he sent down a commissioner—a very able man—to make an investigation and present a statement of the facts. I do not know that there was any dispute as to that statement. My right hon. friend did as he was bound to do—he took the highest advice he could get on the point at issue. The principal law officer of the Crown dealt with the legal question, and my right hon. friend, as anyone in his position was bound to do, followed the advice of his legal adviser and gave his award accordingly. That is the whole story. If anyone can discover in it a trace of animus or of vindictiveness, or of a desire on the part of the Board of Education to do injustice, he must have much keener eyes or a much more inventive mind than I can claim to possess.
I come now to the final passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, in which he attacked the administration of my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland. I am glad to hear that we are to have an opportunity—I suppose on an Amendment to the Address—of dealing with that matter in detail. I am sure no one will welcome that opportunity more heartily than my right hon. friend himself, and therefore I will not go into the matter in detail at this moment. But I was struck by one observation of the right hon. Gentleman. He said: "Can you wonder, when you allow this terrible state of things to go on unchecked in Ireland, that no one is found ready to invest in Irish land?" Are they not ready to invest in Irish land? Who are the people who are investing in Irish land? Not British capitalists. British capital is not being exported to Ireland. The people who are tumbling over one another in their eagerness to invest in Irish land are the Irish people themselves. It is just because there is this eagerness to invest in Irish land that we are obliged to come to Parliament and ask for an extension of the facilities which have hitherto existed. Therefore. I do not think that part of the right hon. Gentleman's argument very forcible. But to come to the "chaotic" and "disorderly" state of things. I am not going to palliate or minimise the deplorable state of things which exists in some parts of Ireland. I and my colleagues would be false to our duty and false to our 48 real opinions if we did anything of the kind. I quite admit that there are going on in some parts of Ireland things which are reprehensible, which ought to be put down, which public opinion ought to condemn, and which, so far as the arm of the law is strong enough to reach them, the arm of the law ought never to be slack in reaching and preventing. So far, I agree. But it is no good indulging in the language of exaggeration in these matters. Let us take the case of cattle-driving. What are the figures? .Last year, 681 cases of cattle-driving were reported. According to the police authorities not more than 100 of those cases were committed by an organised crowd, the cattle-driving being carried out secretly, for the most part in the night, by one or very few persons. In 84 of those 100 cases proceedings were taken; 1,027 persons were arrested and taken before resident magistrates; 989 were ordered to find sureties to keep the peace; 873 gave the required sureties, and the remaining 116 were committed to prison in default. That does not show slack administration of the law, because, out of the total number of cases which the police regarded as really serious, in something like nine out of ten proceedings were taken, and this very large number of persons were made amenable and subjected to penalties for their acts. But the right hon. Gentleman says, as regards cattle-driving, and what I think is much more serious, the prevalence of boycotting and intimidation in some parts of Ireland, "Why do you not resort to coercion? There is a weapon ready to your hand; why not make use of it?" The answer is not far to seek. What power is there in the Coercion Act, even if it were resorted to, which would be of any use whatsoever to deal with the state of things which at present exists? Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that boycotting is not one of the offences which through the operation of proclamation can be made triable by a pair of resident magistrates instead of a jury. That section is confined to riots and unlawful assembly.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The noble lord opposite says conspiracy—of all crimes the most illusive—and that brings me to the real point. The real difficulty now, as often before in Ireland, with which you have to contend in the administration of the law is the difficulty of finding evidence. 49 You cannot convict without evidence—not even a pair of resident magistrates—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
They ought not without evidence. No tribunal in the world, not even a drumhead court-martial, ought without evidence to convict any man of any crime with which he may be charged. I agree that the responsibility is very great which rests upon those who are responsible for the administration of the law in Ireland, but I fail to see in the Crimes Act or out of it any provision which would put within their reach and at their disposal the power of getting such evidence as is necessary to secure convictions in the most serious of these cases. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the past. As I have said, I am not going to minimise or palliate the lawlessness which undoubtedly prevails in some parts of Ireland. But when he refers to speeches made by Sir George Trevelyan and Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman in 1885, let us just see what was the state of things then, in what is called the happier time. Let me give the House the figures. I will take the three great coercion years. I take agrarian offences alone. 1880, 2,585; 1881—the year of the Forster procedure—4,439; 1886—just about the time when the speeches which the right hon. Gentleman refers to were made—1,056; 1908, 576. I am not saying that 576 is a thing to boast of, or that it is not a thing to be deplored, but I say that in the experience of every man in this House, and I include the oldest member, no Chief Secretary has ever come down and said that he could make out a case for a Coercion Act when he could not produce a very much blacker record than exists in Ireland at the present time. No one has ever attempted it. The ordinary law in those days was considered good enough, strong enough and well enough to deal with a state of things like that. These are the general considerations which actuate the Government in the policy they pursue.
Having answered every point which the right hon. Gentleman has made, I earnestly trust that this House will find time and opportunity within the limits of an ordinary session for a full discussion of the programme which is outlined in the gracious Speech from the Throne. Finance must, of necessity, be the main and principal topic of our debates this Session. You cannot indulge in the luxuries of social reform without paying for it, and it is the business of this House, as 50 guardians of the public purse and zealous promoters of social reform, to see money is provided in adequate amount, and also by methods and resources which are consistent with justice and sound public policy. That, of necessity, limits the ambition of our legislative programme. As to the other measures outlined in the King's Speech, I may say there is not one of them which is not introduced either in fulfilment of a definite pledge given by the Government, or as a necessary complement or stage in the prosecution of a programme of social reform of which the Old Age Pensions Act of last year was the first, but only the first, instalment. I invite for them, when presented, as they soon will be, sympathetic consideration from the House in all its quarters, and if we can succeed in carrying them through and making adequate provision for the financial necessities of the year, we shall not pass a fruitless or inglorious Session.
§ Mr. ARTHUR HENDERSON
I wish to make a few observations on the Address which has just been proposed from the particular point of view of the Labour party, and I shall endeavour to do so as briefly as I possibly can. We rejoice that the Government are able once more, as they very properly point out in the opening paragraphs of the gracious Speech, to state that they have continued to maintain friendly relationships with the other Powers in the world. This gives great satisfaction to my colleagues on these benches, for we believe, and, I think, rightly believe, that the democracies of the world have nothing to gain from an aggressive military policy. The common people, as they are very frequently described, have everything to gain from a policy of peace, and I should like to say, especially having regard to the motion we proposed during last Session against certain visits that were being projected by His Majesty, how much we to-day rejoice in the visit which His Majesty has paid to Germany. I think if we can maintain friendly relations between His Majesty and the Emperor of Germany, in addition to the friendly relations which I believe exist to-day, and which I hope will continue to exist between the democracies of Germany and this country, I strongly hold the opinion that there is no likelihood of that disastrous state of affairs occurring that certain people have been prophesying for the last few months. I believe that the democracy of the great Empire of Germany have no desire to get into entanglements or into a great inter- 51 national war with this country. Those of us who at home come into contact closely with the workers are also of opinion that, whoever may be desirous of having war between these two great countries, it is not those who are called the working classes of these islands of ours. Therefore, we rejoice at the characteristic note with which this Address opens—the expression of hearty goodwill which is maintained between the great nations and ourselves, and we sincerely hope that they will be continued. I notice that in most of the speeches delivered, and especially in those, excellent though they were in tone and temper, of the mover and seconder of the Address, very little reference was made to the first paragraph, with Which this House is so much concerned. The paragraph dealing with expenditure, both past and future, is, in my judgment, one of the most important in the whole Address. We are told that the expenditure of the year will be considerably in excess of that of the past twelve months. We know that that is inevitable, in view of the effect that must be made on the Exchequer in connection with Old Age Pensions. But I think there is in this paragraph a reference which has altogether escaped notice during the debate. I refer to the increase which has become necessary in consequence of the cost of the Navy. Now, taking this paragraph, not so much for what it says as for what it infers, taking it also in the light of certain remarks that have been freely published in the Press, I think I am justified in coming to the conclusion that this House is going to be asked again to vote increased expenditure for Navy purposes. We on these benches view with considerable alarm any suggested increase for that purpose. In fact, we are really astonished that it ever should have been suggested, and we have noticed that not only is it claimed through the Press that it has been suggested, but it has really been hinted that there has been a serious crisis in the Cabinet in consequence of division on this point. I hope that there may not have been anything in the nature of an actual crisis, but I also hope that there have been those present who still have some regard for the old Liberal watchword of "retrenchment." We do not hear it so much spoken of in connection with Liberal platforms as we did a few years ago, and many of us began to ask whether, after all, there is any difference between the two orthodox political parties so far as 52 expenditure for Navy purposes is concerned. Some time ago the Prime Minister made the following statement:—The Army and Navy present fields of possible extravagance, and certainly not of possible but of practicable reduction.There is no man in this House who entertains that sentiment more profoundly than I do myself, and let me point out that there are only two practical ways in which you can reduce expenditure on the Army and Navy. What are they? In the case of the Army by reducing the number of your permanent fighting force. There is no other way of doing it. In, the case of the Navy by contracting your shipbuilding programme. Now, what are the remarks to which we have been treated? I hope in a later stage of the debate we may be told from the Government bench that the remarks about a large increase in Navy expenditure are absolutely without foundation. If we are told so, many of us will believe that there are still left a strong force in the Cabinet who believe in the old-fashioned idea of retrenchment. But I want to ask whether the proposed increase is to be £6,000,000, as has been freely canvassed, or the more moderate sum of £3,000,000. May I ask whether this House is to be requested to vote once more £3,000,000 additional for this purpose? May I ask also—where are we going to stop in connection with our military expenditure. During the past two decades our expenditure has risen for this purpose from £12,325,357 to £34,061,280. May I remind the House and the Government that in ten years we have spent for this purpose£318,000,000, and the country that has been so much quoted in connection with what has been described as the German war scare, and which is so often held up to us in this respect has spent £108,000,000. May I remind the House—may I remind the Prime Minister—that we are now spending £32,000,000 on the Fleet, as compared with £17,000,000 by Germany on hers. No doubt the whole Navy vote is £34,000,000, but that includes naval works, and I am endeavouring to separate the cost of the actual Fleet from docking and other works. If these figures are correct they demonstrate that we are making very rapid progress in the extent of the amount we are spending on the Navy. If the paragraph in the gracious Speech means that we are to be asked to vote a sum of £3,000,000 in addition to the present expenditure on the Navy, many of us on these benches will be fully justified in doing everything we possibly can to pre- 53 vent that Vote being carried. May I now turn to the legislative proposals of the Government? We rejoice at many of the Government proposals, such as the Irish Land Bill and that dealing with Town Planning. We on these benches sincerely hope that the House and Town Planning scheme will be so strengthened during its progress in Committee that it will be made as effective as the house reformers have in view. We welcome the intimation that the hours of shop assistants will be dealt with. In many instances they are too long, and if a Bill on the subject, without doing any injustice to the shopkeeper, can be placed on the Statute Book it would be a splendid boon to hardworking assistants. We rejoice, too, that Wages Boards are going to be introduced. The Labour Party in the first Session of this Parliament introduced a Bill for this purpose, and a Bill was also introduced in the second Session. It would be a great mistake if provisions against sweating were applied only to those engaged in home work. I believe there are many evils in factories, and we want to see the whole of the industries brought under the regulations and protections of the Wages Board. We are also delighted to learn that the Government propose to amend the Old Age Pensions Act of last year. I think that the mover of the Address was a little too kindly disposed to the Act as it stands when he suggests that the numbers of cases of inequality and injustice under the Act had been comparatively few. What numbers of cases there have been have been exceedingly painful. I myself had to call the attention of the President of the Local Government Board to one of many cases where men had been deprived of the benefits of the Act because a single payment had been made through a relieving officer, although the payment had been refunded. That had been the cause of disqualifying persons of 70, 75, or 80 years of age. So long as such cases exist—and there are far too many of them—it is urgent that there should be an amendment of the Act. Having congratulated the Government on several measures which they are to introduce, I must offer one or two words of criticism. It seems to me, as the Speech tells us, that there is not going to be the usual time this Session for the consideration of legislative proposals, and, therefore, we doubt the wisdom of introducing into the programme of the Government for this Session the very knotty and difficult question of Welsh Establishment. I will yield to no one in my conviction that the principle of the Bill 54 is right, but with the acute, menacing,. grave social problems before us it seems to me that if the time for legislation is going to be restricted the Government would have been justified in allowing this question to remain over a little longer. The references in the Speech to the great problem of unemployment are very disappointing to the members on these benches. We admit that the Government have taken a step in the right direction by proposing to set up a co-ordinate system of labour exchanges. But that comes very far short of what the Government led us to expect. We on these benches are delighted that the Government propose to associate the labour exchanges with the Board of Trade. But are these exchanges going to provide work? No. Therefore, to that extent the announcement is very disappointing. That was not what we were led to expect. May I remind the House exactly what the Prime Minister said in regard to this question? He made a definite statement in reply to, a question I submitted to him on the 21st of last October. He said that the Government intended to make legislative proposals "at the beginning of next Session dealing with the permanent causes and conditions of unemployment." In the speech which he has just delivered he suggests that he had expressed "the hope" that he would be able to deal with the question during the present Session I want to know the difference between the expression of a "hope" and the actual language which the right hon. Gentleman used in reply to my question on the 21st of last October. when he said that "the Government intend to make proposals at the beginning of the next Session to deal with the permanent causes and conditions of unemployment." May I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman emphasised the point still further. He said that proposals might "produce only temporary relief," but he hoped that before Parliament ended its labours a blow would be struck "at the effective causes of unemployment." May I ask where "the effective blow" of the Prime Minister is to be found in the King's Speech? I want to remind the House that on several occasions during the discussion of this question the President of the Board of Trade has especially invited the House to wait until we had had before us the report of the Commission on Afforestation. How remarkable it is that having been invited to wait for three years for the report the Government, when they make reference to the question of unemployment,give not the slightest indication that they seriously in- 55 tend to deal with the report on afforestation. We have been told to-night that the report of the Poor Law Commission has reached the hands of the Government, and that is the excuse, I suppose, for not having made any definite reference to the Commission on the Poor Law. No such excuse exists, so far as the report and recommendations on the question of afforestation are concerned. Therefore we must express our bitter disappointment that after the Government had created expectations they have doomed these expectations to disappointment, and I have no hesitation in saying that there are many thousands of people connected with the working classes who last Session accepted the temporary proposals of the Government. believing in the speech of the Prime Minister that when this Session arrived the question then would be first and foremost in the King's Speech, and that what would be most definitely dealt with would be the acute and menacing question of unemployment. I admit there has not been the agitation in the last month or two that existed in the country during the latter part of last Session, but I hold that that was largely due to the expectation created by the Government themselves. Now these expectations both in this House and in the country have been disappointed, and it need not surprise us if once more there is a recurrence of that form of agitation which we, on these benches, so strongly disapprove, so long as there is any hope of getting the permanent remedies of which we approve. It is impossible to control such agitation if the Government will continue to disappoint hopes and expectations persistently built up by them as they have been built up in the four Sessions of this Parliament. In their first King's Speech this Government declared they were prepared to bring in an amending Bill—they had criticised the Bill brought in by their predecessors on almost every platform during the General Election—and they made reference to this problem in the King's Speech, and promised to introduce an amending Bill. For four Sessions they have continued to create these hopes and expectations, and now the permanent remedies we were told of last Session take the form of a system of labour exchanges, which are to be set up and other measures that "may be" introduced. Why are we not told that a Disestablishment Bill "may be" passed? Why this change in the form of the language used? We on these benches hope for 56 another opportunity before this gracious Speech is disposed of to lay this question before the House. We shall by an amendment of our own try to convince the House that the promises made have not been fulfilled, and we shall want to know how long the starving people of this country are going to be fooled with the statement that certain things "may be" done this Session when we were told months ago that it was the definite intention of the Government they should be done. We feel that our patience and the patience of those we represent have been sufficiently strained, and unless we get more definite assurance as to this "may-be" relief, and unless we get a definite assurance that that "may" will be struck out and "shall" put in its place we will do everything we can in this Session to keep this question before the House, believing there is no more important problem to be dealt with by the House of Commons to-day than the question of finding an effective and permanent remedy for the unemployment of starving, workless people that in tens of thousands are walking about the streets of this country to-day.
§ Mr. BURDETT-COUTTS
There is one great inconvenience in a debate of this kind, and that is that a man has to make a quick transition from one subject to another if he has to follow previous speakers. I feel some relief, however, from the onus because I do not feel called upon to reply to the strong attack made upon His Majesty's Government by the hon. Member who has just spoken, whose support they might have hoped to secure. I desire to speak upon another subject—one with which I had a good deal of connection some time ago—that is, the condition of Turkey. I am aware that Ministers and ex-Ministers, and those who expect to be Ministers, are called upon to exercise a due reserve in speaking of foreign affairs. I think that reserve may well be exercised even by people who do not fall within any of these three categories—except perhaps when an unofficial Member can testify to the sympathy that exists in this country with the great movement congenial to the spirit of our race—which is in progress for the purpose of introducing reform into Turkey. The introduction of constitutional methods and reform into Turkey was really one of the most remarkable events that occurred in the history of any nation. The Turks are an Oriental people, and it has come to be a theory in this country that Parliamentary institutions were not suited to such people. That may be so in many 57 cases, but, at the same time, it is a theory that should not be translated into universal acceptance. To my mind it depends really upon the character of the people in question, and it is with regard to the character of the Turkish people that I desire to say a few words. With all the sympathy that has been extended to the Turks, based often upon political and self-interested motives, but sometimes upon humanitarian grounds, I don't think the Turkish character is rightly understood in this country. I am not speaking of the Pasha class, but of the real people, who now have voted at the polls. They are a brave and virile people; and putting aside their fighting qualities, which require no comment, they are an industrious, peaceful and temperate people to a degree. They never touch anything in the shape of liquor, they love their children and their homes, and they are loyal to their country and Sovereign, and, above all, to their faith. It is not our faith, but we must always remember that the same flag we live under floats over 300 million Mahomedan subjects of the British Crown. Speaking of what I saw with my own eyes, the contrast of the Mahomedan peasants of Rumelia and Bulgaria with the Christian peoples, side by side with whom they lived—the contrast in temperance, self-restraint, and in all those qualities which go to make up good citizens—I shall never speak disrespectfully of the Mohamedan faith, as a rule of life to those who profess it. I saw these people in the throes of a terrible war, perhaps the most terrible war so far as it affected the inhabitants of the country, in the records of modern history—a war which brought cruelty and rapine and slaughter within their very doors, and which turned them out by hundreds of thousands on the frozen territory to find their way, men, women, and children, without food or shelter, down to Constantinople. I saw them six weeks later lying in the streets of Stamboul, frozen and starving, without a hand being raised to rob the stores that were open, or the ships in the Golden Horn, or the palaces of the bosphorus, patient as they had been up the country. Well, the mosques were opened, and the people poured in, and there, by the noble generosity of the English people, I was enabled to feed some fifty thousand of them a day, and all that time I practically lived with these people, spending twelve or fourteen hours a day amongst them. It seems to me that the same qualities which these people displayed in these terrible times of war and 58 suffering were also displayed to a greater extent in the peaceful revolution which has taken place in the Government of their country. There were no doubt many old and deep-seated prejudices to be got rid of. They had been trained throughout their history to look solely to a despotic form of Government for their national safety, and they had rendered that Government unbroken loyalty, receiving little in return, always ready to give up their lives in the name of the Padishah. But long ago the seeds of reform had really been sown among them by the poetry of Kemal and the actions of Midhat, and the writings and work of others. They were not, moreover, like a far-off Oriental people. They had around them the spectacle of the Christian peoples of the Balkans, to whom they held themselves superior as a nation and as individuals, receiving parliamentary rights. Therefore during this time the popular mind was preparing for the emancipation of the people, so that when it came, as all such changes must come in these countries by an organised movement—not only must come, but very often be nursed and guarded afterwards by organised movement—which cannot be fully communicated to the people, it was received with enthusiasm, and found itself based upon the popular will. This, and the qualities I have already mentioned as belonging to the Turkish people and also the attitude of His Majesty the Sultan, to whom I think too little credit has been given in this matter—these are the reasons why a great revolutionary change like this has been accomplished peacefully and temperately in Turkey. That, I think, alone should excite our admiration and our sympathy in favour of our old allies, but when we add to it the remarkable exhibition of statesmanship, the qualities of prudence, the wisdom and the self-restraint which have been exhibited by the present Government, at a time of great and unexpected external difficulty, I think we have additional ground of congratulating the Turkish people and feeling some confidence in the perpetuity of the reform. There is no reason to withhold these congratulations or the expression of that confidence on the ground that it is premature. There are many in this country, and I count myself among the number, who wish to help on this movement, and who are willing to help it at the time when help, in the form of public opinion, is required and useful, rather than to wait until the whole thing is accomplished. The measure of 59 its prematurity, so to speak, is the measure of the encouragement it will give to those who are struggling to set Turkey on the path of progress and reform, and to bind its different parts together under a free constitution. I do not wish to discuss any more closely what lies more strictly in the province of the Turkish Government, or to refer to immediately recent events, except that I feel permitted to point out that the path from a despotism to a constitutional form of self-government, which has been so rapidly entered upon, cannot long be trodden without mistakes being made. The Turkish Parliament is entirely untrained in parliamentary and constitutional usage. Anything which bears the complexion of a return to a despotic form of authority is certain to be met with a perhaps too hasty and drastic action on the part of those whose struggle has been to get rid of despotic authority. I think in those recent events we do not find any further cause for distrust than that the first attempt to return to anything like the exercise of despotic power, whether it be by a Sovereign or by a Minister, will necessarily meet with the strongest opposition from the majority of the Turkish Parliament. It would be a misfortune if such action were to deprive the Turkish Parliament and the Turkish people of any one of their wisest councillors, but I think it would be still more unfortunate if there were to be any attempt to limit the measure of Parliamentary self-government that has been granted to the country, and I believe myself that it would alienate the sympathies which have been reawakened in this country with Turkey if such action were to be taken by either Sovereign or Minister, or were to be consented to by the Turkish Parliament. I have spoken these few words which I hope I have put in a sufficiently measured form, with the intention, even in a very humble and limited way, of conveying some measure of encouragement and good will to those in Turkey who, having just emerged from a despotism, are, perhaps, struggling in a still, dim light, and by what some may think devious paths, towards the great goal of parliamentary self-government, which it took this country not one year but centuries to obtain.
The subject of unemployment has already been referred to by previous speakers, although this debate has not long pursued its 60 course, and, indeed, it would be strange if it were not so. Since I have been sitting here I learn that a deputation from my own constituency awaits me outside to speak to me on this all-important subject; and, indeed, I have the unhappiness to represent a constituency which, whilst it is situated in the West End of London, which is associated, I am afraid, in the popular mind with luxury and wealth, also includes a large number of unemployed men, and I think I may also say women. We are in this unfortunate position, that while we in the Borough of Paddington have raised voluntarily thousands of pounds for the relief of the unemployed, while there are hundreds of unemployed men admitted to be able and efficient workers in my constituency, we have no machinery by which properly to apply these thousands of pounds to the succour of the men who are unemployed. Thus, within the confines of a constituency such as mine it is not possible, economically, to make work with that money. While such a condition of things as that is possible I cannot help expressing my regret that the subject of unemployment figures for so little in the Speech of His Gracious Majesty. Before I proceed with the subject in its graver aspects, I should like to address one or two remarks to the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. I confess that until to-day I have always regarded the right hon. Gentleman as a good Free Trader struggling with adversity, but I confess also that I had never hoped to hear fall from his lips what I can only describe as the common places of Tariff Reform. I gathered from the right hon. Gentleman that while he did not believe that Tariff Reform contained a complete solution of the problem of unemployment, he implied by the very accent he gave to the word "complete" that he did think it was a considerable contribution to a solution. [Hear, hear.] I gather from those cheers that it is accepted by the party opposite that Tariff Reform, while it cannot pretend to be a complete solution, is still some solution. I do not wish to spend very much time upon that subject, but so far as I understood the three main heads of the right hon. Gentleman they are first Colonial preference, second the using of duties as a means of retaliation to secure more open markets and third as a means of preventing the export of capital from this country. I should like to address a few observations to each of 61 these, to show that Tariff Reform cannot be claimed even as a partial remedy for unemployment. If Colonial preference has anything to offer to the workman of this country, I presume it is by the hope that a freer market will be gained for the products of his work in the other portions of tips Empire, or in the Colonies; but is it not becoming more and more apparent that in the Colonial preference phase of protection—it has always been a phase of protection—what counts is the minimum duty. I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman and others opposite can hope while they preach here the acceptance of Protection, while they tell the British workmen that his Government hopes to obtain work and employment for him by shutting out goods which come to this country from abroad—I cannot understand how, while preaching that dogma, they can hope to inoculate the Colonies with the idea that if they lower their tariffs and so let in more of our goods they will benefit; because by their remarks they are instructing our Colonial brethren that imports spell unemployment, and, therefore, that by their agreeing to lower their import duties they are leading to distress and unemployment in their own ranks. It is, of course, the minimum that counts to the adherents of Colonial preference. Canada, for example, chose a minimum scale of duties which is to be an effective scale, and I gather that on this side those who favour the doctrine of preference are also determined to set up a minimum scale of duties. It has not been sufficiently remarked that the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for West Birmingham, made as recently as 1903 have been entirely amended, in so far as preference is concerned, by the Tariff Commission, which he himself set up. The argument in 1903 and the year or two which succeeded it was that we need not fear dear food because there were free Colonial food supplies which were to come in to counterbalance the shortage, if any, in the foreign supply, and so keep down the price. But what has become of that argument? The agricultural committee of the Tariff Commission has thrown overboard the idea of free food from the Colonies, and their suggestion is for a minimum duty on Colonial produce and a rather higher duty on foreign produce, which is an entirely different proposition, because it suggests, as the Canadian preference suggests, the existence of a minimum, and it is, of course, upon that minimum that the protective mind will be fixed. 62 Every effort will be made from year to year and from time to time to raise that minimum in the knowledge that it is the minimum that tells in connection with protective tariffs. Therefore, I cannot hope that the Colonial preference has anything to offer the British workman by way of increasing his employment. If we are doing anything by preaching Tariff Reform we are telling the Colonies—we are inoculating them, if they are not already inoculated, with the doctrine that it is necessary to keep up our tariffs if they are to retain their employment, and I cannot see any hope for increased employment for the British workman there. On the next question, that of retaliation, I would simply ask whether any hon. Gentleman can point to any instance in the world in which the country which possesses the means of retaliation has gained, in regard to manufactured goods, an advantage which we do not possess. Is it not a fact that Germany has to meet the Dingley tariff which we have to meet, that the American exporter has to meet the French tariff that we have to meet, in fact, higher duties than we do, because they have not favoured nation treatment?
The American manufacturers before the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives of the United States have been saying they want lower duties in order to reach the markets of the world, which shows that they are not content with their home markets, as indeed why should they be? Then I come to the third point, the export of capital. What relevance has Tariff Reform to the export of capital? Can hon. Gentlemen point to a great Protectionist, industrial nation which does not export its capital? Is it not the case that the French have invested in foreign countries certainly more than £1,000,000,000; that Germany is rapidly increasing her investments in Russia and Italy and in other places; that America is investing in South America, Mexico and Canada? As far as I am acquainted with figures on that head, they show that Germany and France at least have certainly as much capital invested abroad in proportion to their total wealth as this country. On the face of it, where is there any evidence to show that Tariff Reform or Protection is a cure for the export of capital? The Prime Minister was able very effectively to reply to the Leader of 63 the Opposition by pointing out that when we export capital we export work or the results of work. We do not export gold for the simple reason that we have none to export, and it can easily be shown—in fact, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite admitted—that we do not export securities. His argument is that we are increasing the world's indebtedness to ourselves and not decreasing it. We export goods, or we neglect to take up from the world at large the whole of the indebtedness of the world at large to ourselves in any particular year. The Prime Minister had there, of course, a most effective and conclusive reply to the Leader of the Opposition, but I should be very sorry to leave it at that.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted; and, forty Members being found present—
As I understood, my right hon. friend has seemed rather to think that it was an excellent sign of the progress of the country that it should be investing capital abroad, and up to a point I should be the first to agree with him, but surely that is not the whole question. It seems to me that here we are touching a subject which goes a great deal deeper than the fiscal issue. The motive underlying the investment of capital abroad is, of course, an individual one. It has nothing whatever to do with the welfare of the country or the person who makes the investment. The only question which the investor asks himself is whether the investment is a reasonably safe one and whether it yields him a certain rate of interest, and the reason why capital flows from the old countries of the world to the new countries is, of course, that higher rates of interest are to be obtained in the newer countries. The investor, with his limited knowledge of securities, is very often tempted to put his money into an investment in foreign countries, generally a new country, merely because of the higher rate of interest which it offers. The hon. Baronet, the Member for the City of London, will remember that not many years ago thousands of people in this country were induced to put their money into American breweries because the rate of interest was so high. I do not know where those investments stand to-day. Perhaps the hon. Baronet can tell us. But there is an instance where the wealth of people in this country was 64 wasted by the individuals who invested it abroad, not in pursuit of the gain of the country at large, but simply in pursuit of a high rate of interest, and that is, of course, the guiding motive in every great industrial nation in the world, and that is why I rather sweep away the fiscal issue in that connection, and do not really admit, except in a small degree, its relevance to the issue, except to point out that in those countries which have adopted every remedy which the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition appears to favour, they have certainly, in proportion to their wealth, as large or larger investments abroad than we have. I pass from that which is really the least interesting part of the question to me to the question of unemployment on its merits and I notice that the reference to unemployment in the gracious Speech is one specifically to labour exchanges. Labour exchanges are a very useful industrial instrument. They have been referred to as a means of organising industry. That I deny. They do not amount to an organisation of industry. What they amount to is an organisation of labour to meet the vicissitudes of unorganised industry. That is to say, the captains of industry are either incapable of organising or refuse to organise their industries for themselves. The industries of the country are largely unorganised, and the result is, on any given day of any given year, a variable amount of unemployment, which simply means that a certain number of loose ends exist in the labour market. Nobody who is aware of the constitution of industries in this country is really surprised at the existence of unemployment. His surprise is rather that, for instance, to-day, February 16th, 1909, there is not more unemployment than there is. It is more surprising that only about 9 per cent. of the trade unionists are unemployed—that the number is so small than that it is so large. That is the real truth about unemployment. What have labour bureaux to offer in that connection? It must be remembered that unemployment is a varying thing. It is not one thing but several things. There is normal unemployment, which simply is the expression of the fringe of partly employed or wholly unemployed men hanging round the skirts of every industry in the country. That always exists, and, as all those who have studied the question agree, it must occur in competitive Society. It is a condition of 65 competitive industry. But that is not the only form of unemployment. The second form arises from the variations of the seasons. As between summer and winter, spring and autumn, the call for labour of various trades alters, and so men are thrown out of work, according to the stringency of the season, in greater or fewer numbers. There is another form of unemployment which is more serious still, and that arises from the alternation of good years and bad years of trade. That, of course, in itself, is a consequence of competitive industry. In cannot be avoided under present circumstances. All we know is that it may be expected. We know to-night, being in February, 1909, it is probable that unemployment will improve a little this year. The next year it may probably—I am only speaking from general information—be rather better than this year, and then the year after we shall probably find unemployment considerably diminished. If anybody was speaking in this House then he would have probably to express the opinion that unemployment would get worse again, and within a year or two it might be as bad as it is now. Again, anybody acquainted with the history of industries in this country, or other modern States, knows that these periods of cyclical unemployment are to be expected. I ask the House to consider what have labour exchanges to offer in connection with these established and well-known facts? A labour exchange may conceivably render more decent and more tolerable the conditions of life and the character of labour. That is to say, for the man whom I have described as hanging around the fringe of industry under modern conditions, it may ease the conditions of his life and render easier the passage from one job to another, and so render him a more decent and self-respecting citizen than would be the case if the labour exchange had not been established. If we took the trouble to make these exchanges such institutions as could be respected by the men who use them, that is to say, if we inspired confidence in them, and if upon their management were represented both masters and men in, say, equal proportions; if we saw that these institutions are provided with decent, comfortable waiting rooms, and that the men who went to them for aid were treated as if they were men and not as dogs; if we do those things we can hope for a great deal from labour 66 exchanges in that way. We might do something more. We might hope, by means of them, that the fringe of casual labourers hovering around the outskirts of many industries might be contracted, and we should do something perhaps to abolish to some extent even the existence of the casual labourers, although it is too much to hope that it will abolish them altogether. When you are asked with regard to seasonal unemployment what have labour exchanges to offer them, the answer is very little, but in the case of cyclical unemployment labour exchanges can do absolutely nothing. Thousands of men may register themselves in a labour exchange, but the labour exchange cannot make one single hour's more work than exists without them. In view of all those considerations which might conceivably be enlarged, it is a disappointing thing that with unemployment as bad as we know it to be at this moment, the only reference in His Majesty's Speech to unemployment is a reference to labour exchanges, and other things which may conceivably be built upon labour exchanges. It does not seem to me that this is what we were led to expect from the debates which took place in this House last year. I have not forgotten those debates. They were not raised on the initiative of His Majesty's Government. They were raised on the initiative of private Members of this House. We reached those debates only with very great difficulty, and they took place only for a few hours. Many of those in this House who have studied this question for years find it quite impossible to raise this question as they would like. We did get these debates with difficulty. In connection with them we were led to believe that the Government were going to put their hands seriously to this important task this year. I don't think they are putting their hands to the task with sufficient seriousness. I don't think they are even quite sufficiently alive to the situation which exists this winter. We are in a bad year of trade. Though we might hope conceivably that next winter may be rather better with regard to unemployment than this winter, I don't think we are entitled to hope that next winter will see us without a very considerable degree of unemployment in this country. It seems to me, therefore, that the Government would be well advised—and I hope that many opportunities may arise in the near future of debating this question of unemployment 67 —to consider whether something more than the mere establishment of labour exchanges cannot be brought about. I know very well the difficulties of the subject. I glady admit that the labour exchanges can be useful not only to the men I have pointed out, but may possibly be useful as a basis for the extension of insurance against unemployment in the time to come; but when all that is said and done, and when all that can be reasonably hoped for from those reforms have been brought about there will undoubtedly remain in this country in any year, particularly in some years, a great amount of surplus labour with which the Government will be continuously called upon to deal. That calls for permanent machinery, and I suggest, as our society is likely to remain on a competitive basis, during at least the life time of those who are listening to me, that it is necessary for us to recognise that that system must be accompanied by unemployment, and to set up permanent machinery to deal with it, permanent machinery which will enable all the different forms of effort with regard to unemployment to be coordinated and brought to bear on the matter. I was glad to note in the speech of one of the Members of the present Administration a reference to the good that might be done by way of the extension of the prosecution of public utilities. The right hon. Gentleman referred to mentioned specifically the question of afforestation. I am not one of those who hope for a great deal from afforestation with regard to the unemployed question. It would be a great mistake to suppose that it is a very large solution of the problem. I only mention it as typical of a number of activities in which the central Government and the local government might usefully engage, which are capable of expansion and contraction to suit the dimensions of the labour market. Here we have got to deal with this always pressing but always variable and fluctuating factor of unemployment, as we know of its existence. Let us at all events so arrange our public works as to call for this varying measure of the surplus of the labour market. If we are to do that wisely, and so far as it may be economic, it will be necessary to set up proper machinery throughout the country, machinery which would be capable at least of dealing with such sad cases as I referred to in my own constituency, where we have unemployed and money to provide work for them, and no 68 machinery to set the men at useful labour, if unemployment is to be dealt with by this or any other Government as it deserves to be dealt with. There is of course the question of ways and means. As I conceive it this Session will be taken up largely with the question of ways and means. It is, of course, impossible to-night to anticipate the debate on the matter. There have been various vague references to what is to come in the speeches of the right hon. Gentlemen. I have not been able to gather a great deal of definite satisfaction from these utterances, but I can only hope that in the measures shadowed forth in the speech now under discussion, in connection with those measures, the right hon. Gentlemen who are now responsible for the safeguarding of our finances will have regard to what regard has never yet been had in this country—the means of those who find Imperial revenue. There should be some scientific, some proper regard to the incomes of those who are called on to pay taxes. This is a question to which I have called attention before, and I do not propose now to go into it at any length, especially as the right hon. Gentleman chiefly concerned is not in his place to listen to what I have got to say, but for my own part I do most devoutly hope that this year we may see the old rule of thumb methods by which the national finance has been raised at last put aside, and that we may have, instead of that rough arrangement of direct and indirect taxation—direct taxation to be taken from the classes and indirect taxation to press upon the masses—some procedure with some scientific regard to the means of those who have to bear the taxation. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about broadening the basis of taxation. I believe myself in endeavouring to broaden the backs of those who have to bear taxation. I believe in having regard to the width of the backs of those who have to bear taxation. If we are to do that properly we shall require to have proper information. In that connection I very deeply regret myself that better regard has not been had by the Somerset House authorities to the colleciton of information with regard to income. It will be within the recollection of this House that recently a differentiation was made between earned and unearned income. One should imagine that those who are responsible for the collection of information with regard to taxation would 69 have taken the trouble to find out how many people at the different rates of income are in the various classes. I have inquired, and to my astonishment find that that information is not available. It has actually not been collected. The information is not given in the Blue Books, and if you go to Somerset House they actually cannot tell you in the different classes of the income tax how many people there are at the ninepenny and how many at the shilling, or how many people precisely are at the different levels of income. If that information were collected it would be a most valuable guide to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would have been of the greatest assistance to him in the task which he has now to face. But it is really typical of our methods of taxation. While the Chancellor of the Exchequer this year is faced with a task as great as any Chancellor of the Exchequer has ever had to face in this country he has not got full information to deal with it. Yet I do hope myself that he has information which will enable him at any rate to adjust taxation very much more fairly than it is now adjusted. I am not one of those who believe that differentiation should be carried very much further. I believe that if you graduate income tax you have no necessity to differentiate. As you raise in the scale of income you reach more and more the unearned element of income, and therefore as you graduate income tax you also differentiate it and save all those complexities and anomalies which arise from endeavouring to distinguish what is earned and what is unearned income.
I will not carry my observation on this question any further except to say that in the financial machinery to be established this year regard should be paid not only to the necessities of to-day but also to the needs of the future. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has to provide the revenue not only for the machinery to be set up this year, but he has also got to show that under Free Trade we can provide in the future the ways and means for all those social reforms which we believe to be necessary.
§ Mr. CARLILE
There are many temptations to follow the hon. Member for St. Pancras in his somewhat superficial criticisms upon tariff reform, but I desire to deal with another important subject—namely, the proposed disestablishment and disendowment of the Church in Wales. Why has this subject been introduced into the King's Speech? Why has it been intro- 70 duced now? Does the report of the Royal Commission of the Church in Wales warrant any such proposal? Nothing of the kind. I refer to this proposal of the Government with much regret, not only because it finds a place in the Speech from the Throne, but because I believe I am right in saying that it is generally acknowledged that the House of Commons is seen at its worst when it is called upon to consider religious subjects, more especially in connection with education. This has proved to be the case during the last three Sessions of Parliament. I venture to say that the Report of the Royal Commission gave no authority at all either in the evidence or in its Report for any proposal to disendow and disestablish the Church in Wales. Why is it suggested that only four of the dioceses within the province of Canterbury which happen to lie in the Principality of Wales should be disestablished and disendowed? Why have the Government not brought in a Bill to disestablish the whole of the Church in England? Simply because the Government know that such a proposal would be laughed out of the House of Commons, and ridiculed by the people of this country. It is fully realised in every part of the country that the Church of England is doing her work efficiently, and that she has never done it more efficiently than she is doing it at the present time. That is quite true of the work of the Church of England in the four dioceses of Wales. Can the Solicitor-General give any reason for disestablishing the Church of Wales under these circumstances? No doubt there was a time when the Bishops in the Principality could not speak the Welsh language, but that is not the case now. All that has been altered, and the Bishops are to-day in close touch with the people of their dioceses, which are well organised to carry on the work of God in connection with the Church of England. The Church is carrying on her work efficiently to the immense welfare and benefit of the people of Wales. It is at such a time as this, and under those circumstances, that the Government insert in the King's Speech a proposal to disestablish and disendow the Church in Wales. The spirit underlying this proposition does not reflect much credit upon those who have made it. It is claimed that because Wales in this House does not happen to be represented by Unionist members, the Welsh people are not interested in this subject. It is true that the figures at the last general election show a large majority of the representatives of the Principality in favour 71 of the present administration, but that is not likely to obtain for any great length of time. We happen to know the spirit which underlies this proposal. We know the source from which it comes, and we attach to it its right value. It is largely a question of social jealousy, and it is merely because the ministers of one Church in the Principality, by their association with the Establishment, are supposed by the ministers and adherents of other denominations within the Principality to have some sort of social kudos which is not to be found in those denominations which are associated with the Establishment. That is why this proposal has been made on this occasion. But there is another reason, and it is that there exists a religious bigotry in Wales which is also unparalleled in any other part of the United Kingdom. That bigotry is not only present in Wales but it also exists on the Treasury Bench. What is the treatment which has been meted out to the Church of England schools in Swansea? Contrary to the law, an attempt has been made by those whose business it is to administer the Education Acts to starve out the voluntary schools in Swansea. Their object is to destroy the educational welfare of the children, and they strike at the children in order to deal a back-blow at the Church of England. They do this because they are animated by a spirit of hostility, hatred, and jealousy towards the Church in Wales. The reason why such a proposal is made at the present time is that the opponents of the Church of England in Wales are beginning to realise that the Establishment is daily growing in strength. Consequently they desire to strike at the Church at the present time when she is not so strong as she is likely to be later on. The opponents of the Church of England in Wales know that if they allow her more time to extend her beneficent and Godly work they will not be able to carry out their plans, and so they have resolved to strike a blow at her while she is weak. That attack will fail. What a laudable courage the Government is showing by attacking the Church of England at her weakest spot when they really desire to attack the whole of the Church in this country! I cannot help feeling very strongly upon this subject, not because I wish to maintain an Established Church in the midst of a population who dislike it, but because I cannot 72 ignore the fact that our Church has been efficiently doing the work of God in Wales for many years past. I can understand a proposal to disestablish the Church in Wales coming from those persons who make it on this occasion, but I cannot understand why disendowment has been suggested as well. Why disendow the Church in Wales? What is it proposed to do with the money? Are you going to build washhouses and things of that sort with the money? There is no information before us as to how the money is to be employed. The endowments of the Church in Wales are the gifts of pious ancestors intended for the use of the Church, and surely you do not propose to take those gifts and use them for any other purpose. That would not be merely robbery, but it would be sacrilegious plundering, and I do not know how you can find language strong enough to use across the floor of the House of Commons to properly describe much action as that. We can do it a little better outside, and it requires some plain speaking in order that the people may realise fully what it is now proposed to do. I agree that the funds necessary for carrying on the work of the Church in Wales will be forthcoming even after disestablishment, and after she has been robbed and plundered as is now proposed, but what about the responsibilities of those who propose to rob the Church in this way. Has it relieved them of the responsibility? Would not the curse lie upon those who carried out this proposal? I believe the curse would lie upon them, and probably it would be one of the severest blows that the little Principality has ever had. Shall the hand be put to sacrilegious robbery and plunder regardless of the spiritual welfare of a vast number of the population? Well, not only would this be the result. We would see to it that the Church in Wales had funds. But what would be the effect upon the Church of England and the Nonconformists in that country. At the present time they are able to grip the hand over the moral and spiritual difficulties that lie around their work. They can co-operate for the good of the people of the Principality. But if the Church of England in Wales once had to acknowledge that to the Nonconformists of Wales they owed this spoliation of the funds of their Church then there would be an end for ever to any co-operation between them. Would the social jealousy disappear? Not a bit of it. The social jealousy would be greater than ever, because those who were adherents 73 of the Church of England in Wales would see to it that their clergy were constituted almost a caste, a class; and would be responsible to see that they lost no kind, either of social or spiritual position in that Principality. All these things would make for the destruction of the Church of God in Wales. Therefore on all these grounds it is a deplorable thing, I venture to say, that the present Government should have inserted this proposal in the gracious Speech. There is higher ground still. The higher ground, I take it is this: That so far as the legislature are concerned, that by maintaining the Establishment, either in Wales or in England, we are making a public and official recognition of the fact that there is the interposition of Almighty God in our daily affairs. Divorce that recognition from our legislature, separate this legislature from any such recognition, and—one does not want to prophesy—one knows as a matter of fact that it would be the case—this country in her spiritual and her moral life, in her whole tone, would receive a blow which perhaps we could not recover from for many generations. I would rather, far rather, see the Primitive Methodist Church established, recognised as the official body in this country, or almost any other sound religious Church associated with the Government of the country, than see what I should look upon personally, and I believe many others would look upon in the same light, as one of the greatest disasters that could befall this community.
§ The SOLICITOR - GENERAL (Sir Samuel T. Evans)
I do not propose to argue the question of the rights or wrongs of the Church either in England or in Wales. But as pointed reference has been made to me by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, I desire to offer a very few words in reply. I hope my very short interposition will not raise a debate upon this topic which would be more properly relegated to the time when the Disestablishment Bill will be before the House. I am going to give a few very short reasons why at this time the promise should be made that is now made in the King's Speech. The hon. Member made a very serious speech. He said it is necessary to have an established church in order that there should be the recognition of the interposition of Divine Providence in the affairs of the world.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I think official recognition is the worst recognition 74 we can have. The hon. Member surely remembers the case of Ireland. Does he say there is no recognition of Divine interposition in human affairs in the whole of Ireland since the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869? The hon. Gentleman went further. He used language which I have no doubt will be repeated when we come to the debates on the Bill. He says that those who wish the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church will be guilty of the crime of sacrilege and robbery, forgetting that action on Welsh disestablishment will lie on exactly the same footing as that in the Irish Church. Members will not forget, I am sure, two things in connection with that: First of all, that it was Mr. Gladstone himself, who was as good a member of the Church of England as ever existed, who carried the disestablishment of the Irish Church through with great advantage to the adherents of the Disestablished Church of Ireland. Also he forgets that in '94, in Mr. Gladstone's own Government, the present Prime Minister, who was then Home Secretary, introduced a Bill for the disestablishment of the Church in Wales.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am not going into the question of the sub-division of the province of Canterbury into the four dioceses.,I think it is now admitted that the Welsh Church existed before Canterbury was formed into a province. The reason why any Bill had been promised, and why this Parliament ought to adopt it, can be stated in a very few words. In the first place, the nation, practically speaking, is altogether. [Mr. CARLILE:"No, no."] In the second place, as far back as fifteen years ago, the nation having made up its mind, that wish of the nation was recognised by the Government of the day, and a Bill received the assent of the House of Commons to its second reading, and was carried to a large extent through Committee. I forget the number of sections now, but we discussed it for many days in Committee in the Session of 1895. That Parliament came to an end, and, of course, the Bill could not be proceeded with any further; but so far as it was proceeded with it received the assent of the House of Commons at that time. The hon. Member says that the Church has been more active. He says give her time. I am not going to discuss the question one way or another, but—
§ Mr. CARLILE
I am sorry to interrupt 75 the hon. Member. I did not say "Give her time." What I said was that the Nonconformists say, "If we do give the Church time she will strengthen herself all along the line, and be strong to resist all our attacks. Therefore we are going for her now."
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
You are entirely mistaken about the feelings of the Nonconformists upon that matter. They have no hostility to the Church. There is no jealousy existing between them, and the hon. Member has already said that they now join hands with all denominations for the welfare of the people of the country. The reason for the Bill is that Parliament has sanctioned the principle of disestablishment and disendowment in the Session of 1895, and it has been found that the representation of Wales continuously from that time forward has been increasing so far as the majority is concerned in favour of this measure. The Welsh people have been very patient since this Government came into power. They have been promised, and a pledge has been given by the Prime Minister, that this measure should be introduced. At the present time the whole of the representatives of Wales and Monmouthshire are unanimously in favour of this measure. Is there any measure of the kind about which you can say that you have the complete unanimous wish of the representatives of any portion of the United Kingdom? If there were any such measure of unanimity among the representatives it would be unreasonable to withhold the measure from them. I hope I am not introducing discussion upon a question which will be more properly and more fully discussed when we come to the various stages of the measure, but these are some of the grounds why I think it is imperatively necessary that the Government of the day should fulfil their pledges in pursuance of the demands of the representatives of the people.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The hon. and learned Gentleman carried our memories back to the Parliament of 1895. Those memories, I think, are a little analogous to the history of the present Bill. He told us that the whole country desired in 1895 the passing of a Bill for the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales. He probably well remembers what took place in 1895. It is quite true that that Radical Government brought in a Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and he said that Parliament passed the Bill. Parliament 76 did not. The House of Commons passed. the Bill, but it went no further.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
The hon. Baronet is wrong. The House was not allowed to go quite so far. It passed the second reading, and we went into Committee, and got to Clause 9. It is a fact that a new Parliament came in before the whole Bill could be passed through the House of Commons. That put an end to it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
In those days the guillotine was not so freely used, even by hon. Members opposite, as it is now. That is the reason we got no further than Clause 9 in Committee. And what happened when Parliament terminated? Did the country that desired Disestablishment of the Church in Wales return the party Opposite? Did they return that party empowered to carry the Bill they so much desired? Now, the greatest defeat the Radical party ever sustained was in the year 1895. My hon. friend informs me that they lost seats in Wales. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman is predicting what is going to take place shortly. I have heard remarks in the Lobby this evening that the Government intend to go to the second reading, and, having carried it that far, do not intend to go any further. I do not myself pay much attention to these remarks, for, after the very fluent, energetic, and fighting speech of the hon. Gentleman, I am inclined to believe that the Government intend to really press this Bill. I give the Government greater credit for sincerity than my hon. friend below. I don't believe that they would put a Bill of this character in the Speech almost third or fourth in order, and not intend to pass it this Session. The hon. and learned Gentleman tells us that the whole country of Wales has been pining for this measure for fifteen years—for fourteen years at all events gallant little Wales has been pining for it—and yet for three years the hon. and learned Gentleman has been in power with a majority which has never been equalled since the days of the Reform Act, and all we hope to have is a Bill which may possibly be proceeded with as far as the Committee stage, and then will be dropped. I hope the result will be as in 1895 and in 1880. The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that things were going to be as they were in 1880. I hope that they will be, and that things will be as they were in 1895, and that the introduction of the Welsh Bill will show us that the good times are at last about to come. I had pleasure 77 in listening to the hon. Member opposite, who told us that he had just left a meal, and that a deputation of his constituents were waiting to see him upon the question of unemployment. It struck me that I would follow the example of the hon. Gentleman, at any rate so far as getting a meal was concerned, and therefore I did not hear the whole of the hon. Member's observations. The hon. Gentleman said that the deputation were not satisfied with the promises of the Government. I rather agree with the deputation. I do not see why they should be satisfied. They have been led to think that as soon as the Liberal party came into power all sorts of extraordinary events would happen, and that they would get thirty shillings a week and nothing to do. But the reverse has occurred. The hon. Gentleman says that money was raised by voluntary effort in his constituency, and yet they could not find any work in Paddington to give to the unemployed. I believe that the remedy proposed by the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway for unemployment is coast erosion and afforestation. In my ignorance I cannot see how it would be possible to deal with either of these remedies, which, as far as I know, are the only remedies proposed to hon. Gentlemen opposite representing constituencies such as that of St. Pancras. Afforestation, I believe, is a favourite remedy with hon. Gentlemen below the gangway; but the planting of trees is a very precarious experiment. I have tried it myself, and the result is that my trees do not grow, though my cheque book is emptied of a good number of cheques. Even if the trees do grow it would be about forty years at the earliest, I believe, before they would make any return to the person who had planted them. Forty years is a long time to wait, and the remedy of hon. Gentlemen apparently is that the present generation are to pay out of their pockets for something which may possibly make a return in forty years to somebody who may be living at that time. The hon. Member for Paddington then proceeded to discuss tariff reform, and said that he understood hon. Members on this side of the House do not say that tariff reform is a complete solution so far as concerns the question of unemployment. The hon. Gentlemen had entirely misunderstood the aim of Tariff Reformers. As far as I know no Tariff Reformer is a Protectionist. I am a very humble follower of the right hon. Member for Birmingham in his policy of tariff reform, but Mr. Chamberlain has never said that he is a Protectionist. All 78 we ask for is that manufacturers in England should be put on the same footing as manufacturers abroad. I fail to see why Colonial preference should interfere at all. Tariff Reform is directed against those countries who put such a tariff upon our goods that we cannot compete with them on equal terms. What we want to do is to either make an arrangement with France or Russia or any other European country whereby if they like to admit our goods free we will admit theirs free. That is what I call Free Trade. But if they will not do that, then we will put on a duty to enable our manufacturers in England to compete with theirs in France or whatever country it might be. That seems to be a simple business proposition. I cannot conceive how anybody who has had a business training can find any difficulty in supporting such a self-evident proposition. A sovereign made in the country and spent in the country is of more value to the country than a sovereign made in the country and spent abroad. That seems to me another self-evident proposition which I should say that it would be needless to advance in a much less intelligent assembly than the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman went on to talk about the investment of English capital abroad. That is a question on which I have some little knowledge. During the last four years the investments of English capitalists in foreign securities had been much larger than they had been in any previous period of English history. I cannot believe that the countries named by the hon. Gentleman, certainly France, have invested any very large amount of money out of their respective lands, except France in Russia. What money France did invest abroad—I have some knowledge of that—arose from the same feeling which has induced English people to invest their money abroad now, that is to say, want of confidence. It had nothing whatever to do with the question of rate of interest, it had to do with this: At one period during the last twenty-five years, to my knowledge, a large number of wealthy people in France were not sure what their Government were going to do, and they sent large quantities of money over to England to be employed here. They did so because of the safety that was supposed to accrue to capital when it was used in England. What is going on? I believe that a compact has been entered into during the last two years between the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and one of the French Ministers 79 that details shall be given, when a man dies, of the amount of money which he holds abroad, and that similar details should be furnished from this country when a person dies here. The result of that has been to prevent French money from coming over. I am far from saying that there are not other circumstances; but, for the last two or three years, French money has not been coming over because the people are afraid that they would be subject to death duties. Capital during the last three or four years has been going out of England in a greater proportion than it has ever done before. Then at the present moment the interest abroad is smaller than ever before—that is to say, you can get a larger rate of interest for your money in England than you could have any time within the last twenty years, whereas a smaller rate prevails abroad than for the same period. That statement I am prepared to verify for any hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. Then there was reference to failures abroad, but I fail to see what that has got to do with the question. Nobody has ever supposed that there are not bad investments abroad in the same way that there are bad investments in England. Now as to the Speech from the Throne. I do not want to say anything about the portion referring to foreign affairs, because as my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition stated, on the whole hon. Gentlemen opposite have done well. They have followed the traditions of the Tory Party, and they cannot do better than do that. As to the Bills to be introduced, I see that we are to have the misfortune to deal again with Irish Land Law, and also to have a Housing and Town Planning Bill. Before I refer further to these questions I should like to mention the matter of the Swansea Education Commission. I heard my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition and also the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who, with the talent for which he is so justly celebrated, always skates over a difficulty. Listening to his speech at one time I almost thought my right hon. friend (Mr. Balfour) was wrong, and that for once in their lives the Radical Party had not committed any great error. The right hon. Gentleman (the Prime Minister) went on to say that he sent down a Special Commissioner, and I believe I am correct in saying that he has since been made a judge. I am quite certain the Radical Party would not make a person a judge 80 unless they were satisfied he was a proper person to give a judicial position to. They sent him down to decide a question, and immediately after made him a judge, and they overthrew his decision because the Law Officers of the Crown said that that discussion was wrong. Why did they make this gentleman a judge if the Law Officers of the Crown had not any confidence in his decision? Why did they send him down unless they were prepared to accept his decision? It seems to me that the fact that they sent this Commissioner down and then did not accept his finding shows that the real object was—although I do not like to say unkind things in the House of Commons—I really cannot help saying I believe it was a little vindictiveness on the part of the hon. Gentlemen opposite on the defeat of the Education Bill of last Session of Parliament. Now I would like to say a few words upon the Irish question, because that seems to me the most important question at the present moment. I was reading a short time ago in North Wiltshire a letter written by a former Member of this House (Mr. Ian Malcolm), in which he described the condition in which a gentleman named Carr was living. He told us that in the man's house there were five policemen, and in some other cottage on the estate he counted a district inspector and seven policemen. And I think he said that as the man slept he heard the patrol of armed men—a patrol passing a gravel path round the house. He told us also that the offence which this gentleman had committed was that he had sold his land to his tenants—as far as I could gather, the sale had not been completed—and he kept a thousand acres of demesne, which he was farming himself. He informed us also this man was spending a thousand pounds per year in wages. The only error he committed was that certain gentlemen—Irish members of the Land League—desired possession of that land.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
Members of the Land League. I do not attribute membership of the Land League to every Irish Member, and I do not know whether they are members of the Land League or not. That was the offence; and he had to send to Dublin for his bread, and to open a shop in his house to supply the workmen who were loyal to him. When he went to the county town to give evidence something like two hundred police were required to line the streets of the town to protect him from being assaulted. Is that 81 a position in which any part of the United Kingdom at present under the beneficent rule of the Radical party should allow themselves to be put? It seems to me the sooner we leave off governing Ireland according to Irish ideas the better for Ireland and the better for the country. I see a measure will be laid before you to alter the law affecting Parliamentary elections and registration in London. That affects me personally, because I have the honour to represent the City of London. I do not quite know what all that means, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. John Burns), who is also a Member for London, can inform me what it does mean, because if it means a little jerrymandering with the plural voting, and I hope that it does not, all I can say is that it is extremely foolish on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to introduce that Bill because I think the result will be that it will meet the fate that it so well merited when it was brought in before. I presume when that happens we shall have a banquet at the Liberal Club or Whitehall. I remember I was speaking here on the previous occasion and was asked not to do so at length because hon. Gentlemen opposite had to go to a dinner. I yielded to the request and read in the papers next day that the mention of "Down with the House of Lords" was received with waving of napkins or, as they were otherwise described, white flags. I am afraid if this means plural voting again the rejection of the measure in another place will possibly be followed by another banquet and declarations as to what they are going to do. I do not propose to say anything on the question of national expenditure, because I hope to have something to say on that when the Budget arises. There is one other subject, that of milk. I am rather interested in milk, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that he does not mean to impose any further burdens on farmers, through which they will be unable to continue the only prosperous branch left to them. Milk in the last ten years has been a very prosperous branch of agriculture, and especially in the country in which I live. I quite agree it is necessary that cleanliness should be observed, and that the milk should be delivered in proper vessels. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to insist on model buildings on every dairy farm all over the country. If he does, he will ruin the only remaining prosperous branch of agriculture.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I had put down an amend- 82 ment to the Address on the subject of Persia, but as I am given to understand it may not be reached, I prefer to take my chance in the general discussion. Let me say that I have already put the views which I am about to submit to the House before the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary in the form of a memorandum, and therefore I hope he will reply to my remarks to-night, and deal with them in a sufficiently thorough manner. Let me say at once that I heartily welcome the remarks in the gracious Speech on this subject. The people of that unhappy country are engaged in a desperate struggle. The Nationalist Party are fighting for their Constitution, and the people of Persia ask only this of the great Powers of Europe, and especially Great Britain and Russia, that they will not intervene in any way, but leave the people of Persia to fight out their own battle. We who are interested in this question cordially welcome also the energetic words used by the Prime Minister this afternoon, when he spoke of the disastrous policy which was being pursued by the Shah, and told us that His Majesty's Government, with the Government of Russia, had strongly urged the Shah to carry out his pledges to grant a Constitution. The only word in that phrase with which I should be inclined to differ is the word "a." It seems to me that the business of His Majesty's Government is to press upon the Shah not to grant a Constitution, but to restore the Constitution he has already granted. But leaving that point, the passage in the gracious Speech to which I wish particularly to refer is this: "The state of affairs in Persia imperatively demands the introduction of representative institutions in a practical form"; and it goes on to say that the Governments of Russia and Great Britain "are exchanging views on the subject." What is meant by "representative institutions in a practical form?" Is it meant that the Governments of Russia and Great Britain are exchanging views as to what is a practical form of representative government for the Persian people, and that they propose that the Persian people should adopt the result of their deliberations? Surely that would be a most unwise policy to adopt, because the Persian people already have a Constitution, and there is no need for two foreign Powers to elaborate one. They have a Constitution, and have taken up arms for it. The question then arises: Can the Constitution for which they have taken up arms be described as a practical 83 form of representative government? To anyone who wishes to study this part of the subject I would commend a little pamphlet just published by Professor Browne, of Cambridge, in which is given a very complete and accurate translation of that Constitution. It is about as practical a form of Constitution adaptable to an Oriental people as any Member of this House or anyone acquainted with Oriental countries could frame. A lesser form of representative government could not be given to any people. In the first place, who are the electors? Is it a large democratic franchise, something impractical, something entirely unsuited to the needs of an Oriental country? Nothing of the kind. The electors are divided into the following classes: (1) Princes and the Qájár tribe, which is the ruling tribe of Persia; (2) doctors of divinity and students; (3) nobles and notables; (4) merchants; (5) landed proprietors and peasants; and (6) trade guilds. The landed proprietors and peasants must be in possession of property of a value of not less than £200. The House will see that that Constitution is framed on the most conservative lines. Further, these electors do not elect the members of Parliament. They assemble in colleges—the six colleges such as I have described, in the individual towns of each province each class assembles and elects one representative; these representatives go to the chief town of the province, and there they elect the members of Parliament. Another safeguard for the maintenance of good conservative principle is that the Senate is composed of 60 members, one-half of whom are nominated by the Shah himself. Anything less than this Constitution could hardly be described as in any way representative government. It has been said that this Constitution, when in operation, worked very badly. I wish entirely to traverse that view. I do not think it worked at all badly. Let me tell the House what was accomplished under it. In the first place, before the Constitution was introduced, there was a large annual deficit in the finances of Persia. After the Constitution had been in force for one year the large deficit was converted into a substantial surplus. And this was done not by increasing taxation, but entirely by decreasing expenditure. The Persian Parliament said they could not increase the taxation of the country until they had made a cadastral survey, and they were engaged upon that cadastral sur- 84 vey, which everybody knows takes a long time, when the Parliament was abolished. I think it probable that had that Constitution remained in force Persia would not have had to approach either Russia or Great Britain for a loan. I have gone very closely into this matter during the last few weeks with certain representative Persians, who have informed me that in their view there is no reason why Persia should be obliged to have recourse to a loan at all. They say that, at all events, it is not at all certain. In addition to this work of finance, the Constitution established all over Persia provincial councils, which acted as a substantial check upon any malpractices on the part of the local governments. On that point it might be urged—of course, something might be said against any Parliament—that there were amongst the Members men who did not do justice to Parliamentary institutions. The answer to that is a very simple one. The Persian Constitution provides that an election shall take place every two years, and, therefore, if the original body, or some of its members, were not entirely up to the standard, we might expect—we should have every reason to believe—that in a future election their places would be taken by more competent people. Now we have to ask ourselves: Why was this Constitution abolished? Well, it was abolished in a very curious way. We do not yet know all the facts because the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has not seen his way—perhaps for good reasons, I do not know—to give us that information, but it was dispersed owing, I think, mainly to two causes. In the first place, about twenty days before the final coup d'état took place the Russian and British Ministers are reported to have gone to the Persian Minister for Foreign Affairs at a time when the Shah was doing all he could to undermine Parliament. These two Ministers warned the Minister that if matters proceeded further Russia and England would be obliged to intervene. The Minister for Foreign Affairs reported this to the Assembly, and the Assembly came to the conclusion in the graphic Oriental phrase that it was better to be a sick patient than a dead one. Therefore, owing to the intervention of the British and Russian Ministers it was thought better not to resist by armed force. We come twenty days afterwards to the coup d'état. It was carried out by Persian soldiers organised by Russian officers. The guns were trained on the Parliament 85 House and on a place where there were 10,000 people assembled.
§ Mr. LYNCH
They were in the service of the Shah, but they were lent by the Russian Government to the Shah. There has been some difference of opinion, I think, and, after all, it is difficult to get to the bottom of these things. I quite agree that no blame can be attached to the right hon. Gentleman for not knowing the details of complicated questions such as these when really reports of an entirely opposite nature are on the carpet. The right hon. Gentleman has said in answer to questions that the Russian officers had no relation to the Russian Government, that they were responsible to the Shah, that they took their orders from the Shah, and that they acted independently of the Russian Government. That, I think, has been disposed of by a statement quite recently made to a Russian newspaper correspondent by the late Russian Minister at Teheran, who was present at the >coup d'état >. He stated that the Russian officers undertook nothing without the knowledge of the Russian Minister at Teheran. I suppose that sets that question at rest. The question I have to ask is—If you are not going to counsel the Shah to revive the Constitution—the Constitution for which the Persian people are taking up arms—what are you going to do? Are you and the Russian Government going to frame a Constitution which you consider better suited to the Persian people than the one which they themselves consider suitable? I do not think that can be the attitude of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I put a question to him on 24th November, when there was talk about reviving the Constitution of Persia, I asked him whether the new Constitution was to be a revival of the old Constitution. The right hon. Baronet answered that "It was not for us to decide its character. I am not prepared to be responsible for the internal affairs of Persia." With that answer I cordially agreed at the time, and I agree with it now. Here, again, I fancy there must be some divergence of opinion between the late Russian Minister and ourselves. Speaking of the representations which he and his British colleague made jointly, the late Russian Minister to Persia said they pointed out to the Shah the necessity of creating a council, assembly, or conference of experienced persons attached to the 86 country who should help the Shah to create order in the land. That is a kind of nominated council which I daresay would be very agreeable to the Russians themselves, but certainly could not meet the views of the Persian nation, and could not restore the security of the country. I should like to know if representations have been made by His Majesty's Government and by the Government of Russia to the Shah asking him to restore the Persian Constitution. That is a very simple question, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will give me an answer.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir Edward Grey)
I answered that question last Session more than once. We have made representations.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS
A constitution. We certainly shall not go beyond general representations. We shall not take upon ourselves the responsibility of dictating. Any representation we make will be purely of a general character. We want to see Persia pacified, and we shall ask the Shah to keep his word to his own people.
§ Mr. LYNCH
I think the last part of the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman is extremely satisfactory. I think it covers the point I was raising, namely, to restore the Constitution which was abolished. Supposing the Shah refuses to restore the Constitution, what remedy have we in our power? I think the answer to that is sufficiently obvious. If the Shah refuses to restore the Constitution the remedy is to withdraw all assistance from the Shah. We know perfectly well that the Shah would be unable to resist the demand of his people for the Constitution were it not for the fact that he is supported by a body of troops drilled and trained by Russian officers. Therefore, these Russian officers will have to be withdrawn, and when they are withdrawn His Majesty will have to fulfil the pledges made to his own people. I do think that we ought to have in the form of papers some clear indication of what took place between the British and Russian Ministers before the coup d'état and also the contents of the Russian note delivered at the Foreign Office some few weeks ago.
§ Mr. REES
I put down an Amendment, but I will not move it now. I take excep- 87 tion to an expression used in the King's Speech. It is that of "the people of India." There is no "people of India." There are many "peoples in India," but no "people of India "; and it is all important that this elementary fact should be borne in mind in every document referring to the affairs of India. There is no more resemblance between the different peoples of India than there is between the different peoples of Europe. It is peculiarly unfortunate that such an expression should be used when various fictitious arguments are advanced that the peoples of India are ripe for constitutional government. The hon. Member for Ripon has been guilty of the fault which he deprecated in the case of the Foreign Secretary when he referred to some interference in the internal affairs of Persia. I deprecate the use of the expression "constitution." In point of fact, the constitution of Persia has been an absolute monarchy. If it was not absolutely perfect it was at least perfectly absolute. When the Prime Minister said that the Shah's writ does not run in Persia, it did not run everywhere years ago when I was in Persia, in the days of Nass-ud-din Shah. There is a great deal of delegation in that country, and I do not think that the affairs of Persia are so desperate as is represented, though I believe that the present position of affairs is disastrous. It is not our business to favour any particular class in the country, but to let them have a fair field and no favour and fight it out. I wish to express satisfaction that there was no proposal in the Speech to give a grant from the taxes of Great Britain to the sufferers from the earthquake in Italy, though I deeply sympathise with the sufferers. But there are sufferers from calamities in the territories of the Nizam of Hyderabad, a protected Prince in subordinate alliance with the Crown, and nothing has been voted to them from the taxes of Great Britain. It has been said that the democracy of this country objects to the high cost of the Navy. I ask the hon. Member for Barnard Castle to look at the democracies of the United States and France. They take entirely different views, and the President of the United States has said that battleships are the guarantees alone of peace. It amazed me that the hon. Member for Barnard Castle should object to anything in the shipbuilding Vote. 88 That Vote is a provision of money for the puchase of British material for the manufacture of British ships by British labour. No sooner do we get proposals for the reduction of dockyards or for any falling off in the Vote for the dockyards than the individual labour Member representing that particular dockyard gets up and says, "Oh ! yes, let us have reduction, but not in my constituency." I submit there is complete inconsistency in the attitude taken up by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle upon this question, and that a large shipbuilding Vote not only makes us safe in our own house as nothing else can, but also provides employment for the British labourer, and is, from every possible point of view, to be regarded as beneficial in the highest degree to this country and above all to the labouring classes in the country. I should like to see the hon. Member get up and explain his opposition to a big shipbuilding Vote with that consideration in view, and also taking into account the anti-military and naval movement in France, which fortunately has utterly failed. The Prime Minister of that country is a Radical in the last degree. A schoolmaster in France, to my great satisfaction, was sentenced to a severe fine, or a term of imprisonment, because he debauched the mind of a youth to such a degree as to deter him from the patriotic course in regard to his military service, still regarded as becoming a Republican in France. I wish to say one word as to the disestablishment of the Welsh Church, which will be very gratifying to the Liberals in my constituency. I have no doubt the hon. Member for South Glamorgan who was to-day re-elected chairman of the Welsh Party has expressed his satisfaction on behalf of the party with regard to that measure. The hon. Member is head of a party which, unlike any other party, has all its Members precisely of the same spirit and exactly of the same mind, and I have no doubt that the Chairman expressed their satisfaction in a manner which I cannot. There is one other remark which I should like to make, and that is with regard to the Bill for amending the Old Age Pensions Act. I think I heard some doubt expressed in some quarters as to the necessity for this, but it appears to me to be extremely necessary. So far as I can gather from the reports of the Pension Committees it has happened, not once or twice, but many times, that old persons receive pensions because their incomes were within 89 the qualifying amount, whereas they were possessed of sufficient capital to enable them to buy annuities of far larger amount than the disqualifying income. In such cases it would appear there are not a few recipients of old age pensions—at any rate, some—who can well afford to maintain themselves, and who have been awarded old age pensions at the expense of the general taxpayer, the general taxpayer who is, as I think, by no means apoplectic with wealth, being drained from both pockets, the one with the rates and the one with the taxes. As a Member for a Welsh constituency I would add my voice to that of the hon. Member for the City of London, and beseech the President of the Local Govern- 90 ment Board not to make these milk regulations too severe because a great deal of the milk even in the City of London is supplied by Welshmen, who supply the best possible milk in the best possible circumstances, and the right hon. Gentleman would discourage a very useful trade if he makes the regulations so stringent that they cannot be complied with.
§ Question put, "That this debate be now adjourned."
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at five minutes after Ten o'clock.