§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ Motion made and Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a second time."—[Mr. Hobhouse.]
EARL of RONALDSHAY
I should like to take this opportunity, one of the very few provided to us in this House, to ask the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, for some information with regard to the annexation by Japan of the country of Korea. I should like to make it quite clear that in my opinion we have really no ground for criticising the main Japanese policy in Korea, whatever we may think of their methods. When I was in Korea last I travelled from one end of the country to the other with all the ease and comfort provided by a first-class carriage. I was then in company with an English bishop and a mining engineer. I only mention this little travelling episode to show that Japan has done something for the advancement of a country which has regarded its own civilisation with perfectly overweening complacency and concentrated all their energies on resistance to change. It is the Japanese who built the railways through the country and who have driven a direct path through the Serbonian bog of Korean finance. They, too, undertook the task of reforming Korean administration. I am quite ready to admit that the behaviour of the Japanese towards the Korean people has been open to more or less severe criticism. That has never been denied. It has been admitted by responsible Japanese statesmen themselves—by Count Inouyè after the war with China in 1894 and by Prince Ito after the war with 154 Russia. Their methods may be open to criticism, but we have no proper ground for criticising their main policy in that part of the world. If we are dissatisfied from the point of view of our own interests with the results that have accrued from that policy, let us be careful to lay the blame on the right shoulders: it rests with our Foreign Office and not with the Japanese Government.
May I recall very briefly the salient features in the progress of events in that country during the last two decades. Korea happened to be the centre towards which three Powers, animated by wholly irreconcilable ambitions—Russia, China, and Japan—were at one and the same time converging. China desired to occupy a position of paramountcy in Korea to satisfy her national ambition; Russia desired a position of paramountcy because Korea would provide those seaports which her own Pacific seaboard did not supply, and the Japanese desired to occupy a position of paramountcy because they realised that the presence of powerful and possibly aggressive neighbours— whether China or Russia—in such close proximity to her own island shores would constitute a constant menace to her national existence. The world knows quite well what Japan was prepared to risk in order to avoid that menace. On two occasions she embarked on and carried to a successful issue a great war. In 1894 she drove China from Korea. In 1901 she drove Russia from that country. During the ten years between the Japanese War with China and that with Russia, Japan had done her very best to persuade the Koreans to cleanse their own house, while guaranteeing them independence. It was, in fact, Japan that conferred on Korea independence by the Treaty of 1895. Japan reaffirmed that policy in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1903, and again in her Convention with Korea in 1904. It seems quite clear that Japan has done all she could to reorganise Korean administration which everybody admitted required re-organising, without indulging in any illegitimate ambitions in the way of territorial aggrandisement for herself.
But in any case reform was the very last thing in the world which appealed to the immutable conservatism of the Korean mind. Nobody could have been surprised in 1905 that Japan thought it necessary to take more drastic action, and to impose upon Korea a further Convention, which practically gave Japan a Protectorate over the 155 country. That action was endorsed by the several Powers interested in the Far East; indeed it would be a mere waste of breath to endeavour to assail the position which Japan occupied in regard to Korea in 1905. She had carried through two immense wars, and in the latter of the two she spent two hundred millions sterling, and lost 85,000 lives. It was quite obvious, therefore, that she had a right to take any steps she considered necessary to make good the risks she had run and the great losses she had sustained, so long as the other Powers recognised the steps she took. Up to that time she succeeded in doing that. In 1907 it became necessary, as a result of various episodes which I need not detail, but the principal of which was the appearance at the Hague of a Korean delegate who had no right to be there—for Japan to make a further Convention with Korea. At that time it was generally declared by public critics in this country that the Convention between Japan and Korea of 1907 differed hardly at all from complete annexation. I remember "The Times" commenting on the Convention of 1907 in a leading article in these words:—There is no doubt a technical and formal distinction between the control which Japan would henceforth exercise over Korea and annexation, but, except to diplomatists talking among themselves, the difference may seem so small as to be well nigh negligible.That was the opinion held at the time. I think I shall be able to show that there was, as a matter of fact, a very fundamental difference between the annexation which has since taken place and the convention between Japan and Korea in 1907. What Japan secured by the whole series of conventions and treaties up to and including the convention of 1907 was a position of paramount control so far as political and strategic considerations were concerned, and it was in that that the Government of this country had acquiesced. But while we had acquiesced, that Japan occupied a position of paramountcy so far as strategic and political considerations were concerned, we had always been very careful to emphasise the fact that at the same time we did not recede at all from the position which we had always declared we occupied; that is the position of equality with Japan and every other Power so far as commercial matters were concerned. Let me remind the House of the very definite words which were made use of in the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Alliance of 1905 with regard to 156 that point. Article III. of that instrument is as follows:—Japan possessing paramount political, military and economic interests in Korea, Great Britain recognises the right of Japan to take such measures of guidance, control and protection in Korea as she may deem proper and necessary to safeguard and advance those interests.Then come the important words:—Provided always that such measures are not contrary to the principle of equal opportunities for the commerce and the industry of all nations.In order to emphasize those words the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lord Lansdowne, in drafting his dispatch of 6th September, 1905, communicating the text of the agreement to the British Ambassadors at St. Petersburg and Paris, made use of these words:—Article III. dealing with the question of Korea is deserving of especial attention. It recognises in the clearest terms the paramount position which Japan at this moment occupies and must henceforth occupy in Korea and her right to take any measures which she may find necessary for the protection of her political, military and economic interests in that country.Then I come to the really important words of the dispatch, which are as follows:—It is, however, expressly provided that such measures must not be contrary to the principle of equal opportunities for the commerce and industry of other nations.I have quoted these words because they show very clearly that the British Foreign Office, while desiring to sanction the steps which Japan had taken to acquire a, paramount position as far as political and strategic considerations were concerned, did expressly reserve to themselves the position of a perfect equality with Japan so far as commercial considerations were concerned. What has taken place since that time? In August last Japan annexed Korea, and in annexing Korea she, of course, I suppose, brought to an end all treaties which up to that time existed between Korea and other foreign countries. These treaties ipso facto came to an end, though I think it is very likely to be disputed by some hon. Members whether any country has the power to bring to an end treaties existing between two other Powers, merely by annexing one of those Powers. That may be a matter open to dispute or not, but I am not prepared to enter a verdict from the point of view of international law upon that question. I assume, for the sake of my argument, that the treaties between Korea and ourselves and other countries did ipso facto come to an end when she was annexed by Japan. What does that mean? It means this, that Japan will have the right in future to impose upon the traders of this country the 157 import duties of her own scientific tariff, while at the same time she lakes her goods into Korea free of duty altogether. Let the House not forget that it is not merely the trade of Korea which is involved in this matter. The trade of Manchuria is also involved in the annexation of Korea. Japan has built railways the whole length of Korea, and through Korea into the very heart of Manchuria itself. Under certain conventions which exist trade which is admitted into the Chinese Empire by the land frontier is not subject to the same duties which are imposed upon trade which is admitted to that empire by sea.
It must therefore be obvious that Japan will not only have the right to take her goods into Korea free of duty, and to maintain any duty she pleases on the trade of oilier countries, but she will also derive advantage by sending her own goods through Korea duty free into China, where they find imposed upon them a smaller duty than that imposed upon the goods of other countries coming into China by sea. That to my mind is a very serious matter. It is perfectly true, of course, that Japan has declared her intention of preserving for ten years the status quo; that is to say, for ten years she is going to admit goods of ours into Korea at the present duly, namely, at the general rate ad valorem of seven and a-half per cent., but I would ask the Foreign Secretary, does he consider that this limit of ten years for the status quo is an adequate return to us for our acquiescence in the action of Japan in annexing that country? The right hon. Gentleman must know quite well that Japan could never have obtained her present position without the assistance of this country, and he must know that Japan would never have indulged in her present policy towards Korea unless they had been given assurances that she would not meet with the opposition of this country and other Powers in so doing. The Japanese have admitted that themselves. I remember Prince Ito, one of the most distinguished statesmen in Japan, delivering, while I was myself in Japan, a speech on that subject, and the impression made by it upon my mind was considerable. The extract which I will bring to the notice of this House runs:—It is not with regard to Korea alone, but with regard to the whole problem of the Far East, that nothing opposed to the sentiment of the Powers should he done No strong country whatever can march forward independently and at its own arbitrary convenience. If Japan puffed up by her victories in war, should forfeit the sympathy of the Powers she will be laying up for herself misfortune in the future.158 I have quoted that because it shows that the Japanese were themselves aware that they could not afford to indulge in a forward policy unless they had the sympathy of the other Powers, and therefore I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman considers that this time limit of ten years is an adequate compensation—if you like to call it so—for the part which we have played in regard to Japan's recent procedure in that part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that the country expects great things from him in matters of this kind, because when the right hon. Gentleman was in opposition he has always been a most staunch upholder of the policy of the open door, and there never was anyone who so vehemently assailed Lord Salisbury for giving away concessions without adequate return than the right hon. Gentleman himself. The House may not be aware of the views of the right hon. Gentleman on this and analogous questions when he was in opposition. I have here an extract from a speech made by him in Oxford in 1898, and this is what he said about giving away concessions:—There had been a great many concessions made to foreign Governments by Lord Salisbury, It was not concessions he objected to so much as waste of concessions—the fact that they had been given up for nothing. Many of Lord Salisbury's concessions were blind alleys which led to nowhere instead of leading to some settlement of the questions in dispute.I seem to recall the fact that when a similar case to that of Korea was in progress in Tunis, the late Lord Salisbury secured, not a time limit of ten years for favoured-nation treatment for the goods of this country, but a time limit of forty years, and he also secured special privileges for the importation of British cottons into Tunis for a period of fifteen years. I would remind him of another speech he made, also in 1898. Speaking at Liverpool he said:—He did not believe that trade followed the flag, but what was no doubt true was that where the flag of other nations went British trade might be excluded. An instance of that was to be found in Madagascar. All they desired in regard to that matter was to request France to respect our treaty rights, or, if our treaty rights were to be extinguished, to see that they were only extinguished in return for compensation elsewhere.The right hon. Gentleman showed a great gift of prophecy in the last part of his speech.What had happened in Madagascar was what might happen on a much larger scale in China.The right hon. Gentleman foresaw, no doubt, what was coming about. So I could give any number of extracts from the speeches of the right hon. Gen- 159 tleman delivered in 1898 and 1899 which would show quite conclusively that he was then of opinion that the policy of the open door, and of equal opportunity for the trade of all countries, ought to be upheld and maintained by this country at all risks, and that in cases where the policy of the open door might be interfered with by a policy on the part of other countries of spheres of influence or of annexation, compensation ought to be demanded and received in other quarters. Does the right hon. Gentleman still hold the view which he held in 1898, and, if he does, has he secured compensation for us in other respects for the annexation of Korea by Japan? I only ask for information. The annexation by Japan of Korea is a matter which must affect very seriously the interests of our trade in the Far East, and the right hon. Gentleman up to the present time has been good enough to give us, I think, one single sheet of printed matter referring to that great question. I inquired at the Vote Office yesterday whether any Papers had been published on the subject, and I was informed that nothing had been published. This morning I again applied, and was given a Paper, perhaps there were two sides of a sheet of foolscap covered with print, and that only dealt with one very small aspect of the question, namely, the rights of British subjects who had mining rights in Korea at present.
There are many questions in Japan which our commercial classes would like to see dealt with satisfactorily. There is the question of the ownership of property, there is the question of the coasting trade, and other questions of that kind, which might very well have formed the subject of negotiation between ourselves and Japan at the time of her annexation of Korea, and questions on which Japan, in return for our good offices, or, rather, in return for our acquiescence in her policy in Korea, might very well have felt en-titled to meet us. I do not think we are entitled to criticise Japan for taking the fullest reward after her wars in the Far East, her expenditure and her labours, which the other Powers concerned are prepared to permit her to take, but I should lay it down that however solicitous we may be for the interests of our allies, however sympathetically we may feel disposed towards them, we ought not to allow that solicitude or that sympathy on our part to stand in the way of demanding for our 160 traders such watchfulness and such action on the part of our Foreign Office as will fully safeguard their legitimate interests in that part of the world.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I hope no Member of the House will think that this question of British trade interest in Korea is necessarily one of slight importance to this country, because British trade, and indeed all the trade, in Korea is naturally a comparatively small matter. Not only is the trade of Manchuria and the trade of the hinterland affected, but, as a matter of fact, so far as trade figures go, it is no doubt quite true that Korean trade is a small thing. What it may become later is a very different matter, but as a matter of fact our share of the trade, considering the circumstances, is very large, and is of great importance, among other places, to Lancashire. British trade is, of course, not as large as the trade of Japan, but, and this is a remarkable fact, it is by far larger than the trade of China, and it is larger than the import trade into Korea of all the other great commercial Powers of the world put together. Under these circumstances, it is a matter of some concern to us even at present, and I am sure no great commercial nation can regard otherwise than with interest the future of a country which has the possibilities which Korea has. You have a country of over 80,000 square miles, over 6,000 miles of coastline, over 10,000,000 inhabitants, a country which in some districts has great lumber possibilities, a country whose mineral resources are as yet almost untapped, but which I believe are literally incalculable. A country with all these possibilities in the future must naturally present a matter of great interest to all Powers who have commercial interests in that part of the world, and more particularly to us.
My Noble Friend has referred to the recent political history of Korea. Like him, I take, of course, no objection whatever to the carrying out of the policy of annexation by Japan. I have always believed that annexation was in the best interests of Korea itself, and indeed it is in annexation that I think the only possible solution of the problem which has always been presented by Korean independence is to be found. At the same time we are entitled to say that the actual act of annexation appears to have been a little hastily carried out. About six months before, what is commonly regarded as the Japanese Press, which writes with some inspiration, was declaring that there was no question of any change in the status of Korea and 161 that any talk about annexation was wholly premature, and the treaty Powers would naturally have to be consulted first. Upon 29th August Japan declared by Imperial edict the annexation of Korea. That was done very suddenly, and I should like to mention this as illustrative of the state of things when the annexation was brought about. I am told that the Korean Government transacted business in the morning, and when they came back in the afternoon they discovered that, in point of fact, they had ceased to exist. There was a hard case, in which two unfortunate American lady missionaries were concerned. They arrived on the morning of the 29th with the intention of being married at the American Consulate, but in the afternoon it was found, to the dismay of all parties, that the consul had lost his consular jurisdiction, and was unable to perform the ceremony. What happened under these circumstances, I confess, I do not know. I only mention that as illustrating the haste with which at the last moment the annexation was accomplished.
I turn now from the more personal matters to consider the general question. We wore no party to the action of the Japanese Government in this matter, but we are rightly entitled to ask His Majesty's Government what they have done to discharge their responsibilities for the protection and furthering of the interests of British trade which devolved upon them under the new régime.
The position prior to annexation was perfectly clear, and it has been referred to by my Noble Friend. With regard to the agreements which previously existed, may I say something in addition to what was said by him? It is not only under the treaty of 1905 that special provisions were made to secure that all nations should have equal opportunities in Korea, but both before and since that treaty there were similar provisions. The Preamble of the original agreement of 1902 states that Great Britain and Japan are specially interested in maintaining the territorial integrity of the Empire of China and Korea, and in sesuring equal opportunities in those countries for the commerce and industry of all nations. Then came the Convention of 1905, which has been referred to. After that Convention there was a Circular Note sent out in, I think, the month of November, in which the Imperial Government of Japan declared that they would see that existing treaties were maintained and respected, and they also engaged not to 162 prejudice in any way the legitimate interests of these Powers in Korea. That was the position prior to annexation. Then came the annexation, and the result of that, so far as British subjects in Korea were concerned, was the loss of all their extra territorial privileges and immunities. That is the inevitable result of the annexation of any one country by another, and it is recognised by His Majesty's Government by Order in Council on 23rd January. The Consuls' Courts were abolished, and British subjects became subject, like those of other countries, to the tribunals of Korea under the new regime. What I wish to ask the Government is whether they are entirely satisfied as to the standing of the Courts before which British subjects are liable to be arraigned. I say that because it is a matter well known to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary that judicial reform in Korea was only begun in 1907, and that at the present moment, if I am rightly informed, the law which is administered in Korea is not Japanese constitutional law, but what is tantamount to military jurisdiction. May I further observe that the waiving of extra territorial privileges has in the past, and the not very far past, been regarded as a matter of considerable importance. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary (Mr. McKinnon Wood) was at the Foreign Office, but the Foreign Secretary certainly was when we waived our extra territorial rights in another part of the world and obtained concessions in certain large portions of territory from the Government of Siam.
I wish to refer to the general commercial conditions in Korea. My noble Friend has said that it is perfectly clear under the treaties that our commercial rights were safeguarded, but that since the annexation Japan has taken the point of view that annexation of itself abrogates previously existing treaties, and that any assurances they give are given ex gratia. They are given as regards the ownership of land, and, so far as they go, they appear to be satisfactory. They have given us assurances as to the maintenance for ten years of the existing tariff. I shall have a word to say about that before I sit down, but meantime may I say that I regard with some apprehension the acceptance, without apparently a murmur of discontent, of the doctrine that annexation connotes the abrogation of all existing treaties. There have been precedents cited by Japan in 163 support of their contention, namely, the cases of Hawaii, Texas, and Madagascar. When Madagascar was annexed by France we protested vigorously, and no one more vigorously than the Foreign Secretary, against the idea that any annexation by France should wipe out previously existing treaty obligations. In none of the three cases mentioned had there been similar conditions to those in the case of Korea, because in none of these cases had the annexing Power pledged itself to see that equal opportunities for the commerce and industry of all nations were preserved. That condition did not exist in any preceding case, while in the case of Madagascar the Foreign Secretary went round the country with the fiery cross of his eloquence denouncing the Government of the day for having given away British rights without obtaining in return sufficiently substantial compensation.
I confess that I regard the present position as profoundly unsatisfactory. We appear to have given up a very great deal and to have got practically nothing. We have got assurances as to the ten years limit, but, as my noble Friend very justly said, that after all is a comparatively small matter in connection with the development of Korea. How great that development may be cannot be measured at the present moment. It is not going to come about in ten years, and it is only at the end of ten years that the development will be beginning to reach any reasonable dimensions. Moreover, what is the state of British trade likely to be during all this moratorium? Is there likely to be any reasonable attraction for British capital and enterprise to go and take part in the commercial life of Korea, knowing that at the end of ten years, and possibly, if I read these assurances rightly, sooner in the case of land and mineral rights, British traders may be subjected, so far as the import trade is concerned, to the rigorous protection of the Japanese tariff wall. So far as those living and working in the country are concerned the mining and land laws of Japan are very illiberal With this sword of Damocles hanging over the head of British trade, you cannot expect British trade to prosper n Korea, and, as a matter of fact, it is not prospering.
The figures of last year and the year before are striking. British trade has declined, not only relatively but abso- 164 lutely. Our trade declined in 1910 as compared with 1909 by £200,000, while Japanese trade has increased by over £1,000,000. In 1909 we had 12½ per cent. of the import trade, and Japan 64 per cent. In 1910 we had 8 per cent. and Japan had 72½ per cent. I think some explanation of the position is called for from the Government. I do not want to appear to blame them unjustly. Our information at the present moment is practically nothing. All we have got from the Government is the single White Paper which has been referred to. Let me point out that these salient facts emerge. Annexation has taken place. We have given up our extra territorial privileges, our Treaty rights have been impaired, our trade has suffered, is suffering, and is likely to suffer much more in the near future, and the Government has apparently acquiesced in this state of things. I do not know whether they acquiesced without protest or not. If there were negotiations, we seem to have got very much the worst of them, and I cannot refrain from saying that the result does not reflect a very great deal of credit upon the adherents of the Free Trade system as bargainers in the markets of the world. I do not think that the Free Trade system has emerged creditably from the ordeal. In the meantime I hope the Under Foreign Secretary will see his way to make a full and frank statement to the House to-day of the position which the Government took in the negotiations, if negotiations there were, indicating what they claimed, what assurances, if any other than those already produced, they received, and what he considers is likely to be the future position of British trade in Korea?
The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
The Noble Lord (Earl of Ronald-shay) gave us a very interesting historical retrospect from which it appeared that we could not reasonably have objected to the annexation of Korea by Japan. He pointed out that Korea was a country on which three great Powers converged with conflicting interests, and I think it was clearly his opinion that Korea, being a conservative country, was not at all likely to develop itself, and was bound to fall under the protection of, and finally to be annexed by, one or other of these three Powers. He pointed out that Japan had made great sacrifices for what she considered her own vital interests in Korea, and I think he made it perfectly clear that 165 Japan was justified in annexing Korea. I should have thought it followed from that that Great Britain, as the ally of Japan, was not justified in objecting to the annexation. If it was such a reasonable thing with all the other Powers assenting, or none of the other Powers objecting, to the annexation, does anyone really suggest that it would have been a wise policy in view of our great interests in the East, in view of our intimate relations with Japan, that we alone should have stood out? It would have had an immense political influence in the East, of very much larger importance than any of the considerations which have been brought before us to-day. The Noble Lord and the hon. Member who followed him both referred to the contention of Japan, that annexation cancelled previous agreements with Korea. I think the House must say that that must in some form or another be the case, because surely they must admit that if Japan annexed Korea, it would be in the power of Japan to denounce agreements made by that country. You cannot contend that if a country is annexed, all the agreements it has made with other countries are stereotyped for ever. Therefore, there must be force in the contention that annexation cancels agreements with the country which is annexed; at any rate that must be the practical result of annexation. I listened to the two speeches with very great attention, and I could not make out what we ought to have obtained that we have not obtained. The question of jurisdiction, the hon. Member for North Down said very reasonably, was one we were bound to give up. I am sure the House will agree with me that nothing would have been more offensive to Japan than that we should have insisted on maintaining that jurisdiction. The Noble Lord criticised some of the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey) in 1898, and he referred especially, and so did the hon. Member who spoke after him, to what be said as to Madagascar. When you compare the cases of the two countries, Korea and Madagascar, it is perfectly plain that His Majesty's Government in the former case obtained a great deal more than they did in the case of Madagascar. In that case we practically got nothing; we had no maintenance of the existing tariff. The French acted on the principle that annexation cancelled everything, and I think that my right hon. Friend was well justified in criticising the position that arose. In the case of Madagascar they 166 certainly did not get what we have got in the case of Korea. With regard to the position of owners of land and mining rights we objected to the proposals of Japan because we had better terms from Korea, and we got assurances with regard to mining rights, obtained by British subjects by special agreement, that all the terms of such agreements should be preserved and confirmed, and all rights and privileges thereby granted should be duly maintained and respected. As regards the position of foreigners, who acquired property and mining rights in Korea, the Imperial Government naturally were unable to bind themselves for all time, but they are disposed to maintain, at least for the moment, the existing laws—
EARL of RONALDSHAY
Does that apply only to those who have actually rights in mining properly in Korea, or who may have rights afterwards?
Mr. McKINNON WOOD
The words as regards the capacity of foreigners to acquire property do not seem to me to be limited. I would rather not express an opinion at the present moment, but, looking at the words, they seem to imply the capacity to acquire. We got another thing of very great importance. We got the Korean tariff maintained for ten years. The hon. Member has spoken of trade having suffered. It is obvious that trade cannot have suffered from the annexation by anything done or left undone by the Government, because the commercial terms exist exactly as they were before. The reason must be sought somewhere else. I have very little doubt that the reason is that the new hold of Japan has led to much more energetic pushing of business on the part of Japanese merchants, as the propinquity of the two countries gives Japan a natural advantage which is not affected by a tariff. I may point out that the Government did take the line that our consent to annexation ought to be met by concessions on the part of the Japanese Government. I am bound to say that I think the Japanese Government met us very fairly. They gave us this understanding in regard to land and mining rights, and they agreed to allow the more favourable Korean tariff to stand for another ten years. I think that is all we reasonably could have expected, and I must press on the hon. Member that it would have been very bad policy on the part of the British Government to be needlessly grasping in regard to this matter with the Japanese, who are our 167 allies. As I have said other nations were not objecting to the annexation. We got very fair concessions from them. We were met in a very friendly and liberal spirit, and I think the action of the Government in agreeing to annexation on these terms is not open to serious criticism.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I desire to call attention to what is nothing less than a scandal in Scottish administration, which has been revealed by an answer given this afternoon by the Lord Advocate, and I am certain that my Scottish colleagues, whom I see on the other side of the House, will agree with me that I am not using terms too strong with regard to the revelation that has now been made. I may briefly explain to the House what the point is. My attention, and I know the attention of my colleagues on this side of the House, has been called to it within the last few days, by a flood of correspondence which has reached us from Scotland with regard to the dangers which threaten the Superannuation Scheme for Teachers in Scotland under the Act of 1908. We knew nothing of that impending cloud, but suddenly it was announced to-day by the Lord Advocate that this whole scheme, embodied in an Act of Parliament, which was laid before the country in a draft scheme three months ago, is now to be withdrawn altogether to a vague and indefinite future. The Lord Advocate, in reply to a supplementary question by myself, could only say that to his deep regret the facts were as I put them. Let us consider what has been done. In passing the Act of 1908, the House came to the conclusion that the conditions of superannuation for the profession of teachers in Scotland were such a scandal as to require an immediate remedy, and the remedy was provided in the Act. An injunction was laid upon the Scotch Education Department to prepare a scheme and issue that scheme in draft, and then submit it for the approval of this House. Two years have elapsed. We have repeatedly asked for that scheme. We were only told that the difficulties, mere actuarial difficulties, were so great that hurry was impossible, and we were begged to suspend our impatience and wait for the action of the benevolent department. Eventually this year, after repeated inquiries, the scheme was issued in draft, and we were told that after the necessary time, three months, elapsed, the scheme would be put on the Table of the House and would become within a month or two 168 the law of the land. Is it in keeping with the dignity and credit of this British House of Parliament, having passed a scheme, having provided that it should come into operation, having said that the money would be forthcoming for the inauguration of that scheme, that now, at the end of the third year after the passing of that Act, all the hopes of the teaching profession are suddenly dispelled, and this afternoon, when the House is almost empty, the Lord Advocate tells us that whatever hopes they had raised, whatever draft scheme they had submitted to the House, the whole thing is to be withdrawn, and that in a vague and indefinite future, perhaps, some superannuation scheme may be submitted?
What is to happen to the teachers who have in the meantime to retire? Fate is active. Disability comes upon them. The time of service conies to an end. For all these men you hold out no hope whatever, and neither to those junior to them do you tell when this scheme authorised and enjoined by Parliament in 1908 is to come into operation. You have tried to do so, and suddenly without warning you withdraw it altogether. I know quite well that there are Members on the opposite side of the House, obedient followers of the Government, but who occasionally do indulge in eloquent oratory in denunciation of the treatment of Scotland. Do they intend to leave it to this side of the House only to denounce an act of flagrant maladministration, such as this, with the disappointment which it inflicts upon the large profession of teachers in Scotland without a shadow of excuse? Do they wish us to believe that the florid oratory in denunciation of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, is only sound and fury, signifying nothing? Are they not going to use it at the time when. it would really be effective? Are they going to support the right hon. Gentleman in his action in the Division Lobby, in spite of all their eloquent denunciation of the wrongs done to Scotland, and is it to be left to those who are denounced as a miserable fragment, the Unionist Members for Scotland on this side of the House, to deal with this question? Hon. Gentlemen laugh; I would much rather that they took much more decided action; they are not here today in the large numbers which they often boast of, and I do not think that they compare altogether in overwhelming proportion with that insignificant minority which they denounce so often on this side 169 of the House, the Unionists from Scotland. But I must insist, in view of the wrong done to this profession, in which I am so much interested in Scotland, and in view of this most ungracious and most careless and inefficient and dreadful act of the Administration, on raising this matter. We know quite well that it is not a new thing for the present Government to institute a system of pensions, and under the old age pension scheme they did find the money somewhere or other, though it was not provided at the tune; but here you get rid of an obligation imposed by Statute.
You pass an Act of Parliament, and you claim credit for it in Scotland. Over and over again I have heard hon. Members opposite claim credit in Scotland for having passed that Act, which was an ameliorative feature in that country. You allowed three years to pass after drafting your scheme, and, having drafted it, what is the fact? It is said, "We have not the money to carry it out, and, to our deep regret, we are forced to withdraw it altogether." If this is governing the country, if this is maintaining the financial credit of this great nation, if this is keeping faith with a great profession, then I do not know the meaning of words. I have repeatedly refrained, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, from making any attack on educational administration in Scotland, having myself had to do with it. I am not altogether without the means or the instruments for making such an attack, but my official reminiscences told me to hold my tongue when the Department was in any difficulty, and to give it such loyal support as I could. But the time for that has now gone. The great profession with which I am closely connected, and with which I have been connected all my life, like many of my Constituents in the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, has been deceived and deluded by false hopes, and I must insist that the right hon. Gentleman will at least assure us that there will be an opportunity afforded for the denunciatory eloquence of his followers on those benches by bringing forward at an early date the Education Estimates for Scotland.
§ Mr. AINSWORTH
Although I should be sorry to adopt the adjectives of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, still I think every Scottish Member is prepared to acknowledge the gravity of the crisis which is before us at the present moment. A few days ago we raised the question of the position of higher education in Scotland in this House, and we 170 took the opportunity of pointing out that higher education in Scotland was seriously affected by a decreasing Grant. Serious as was the position at that time, it is even worse now. Everybody who knows anything of Scotland, or has personal experience of that country, is aware that to national education she owes everything, and that it is the life blood of the Scottish people. Under the old Scottish system there was an opportunity for a clever boy to be sent from the elementary schools to the higher schools. It was a system greatly appreciated by the people of Scotland, for every child of talent had an opportunity of going forward and of attaining to a high degree of education. But all that has been interfered with very seriously, and all we are asking the Government to do is to consider the financial aspects of this subject. More money is required, and money can be spent on no more beneficent purpose than that of education. There is no place in the whole world or in the British Empire where money devoted to such a purpose would be spent more economically and to better advantage than in Scotland. We have enjoyed the enormous advantages of the educational system that has come down to us from earlier days. It is a national system, and it is not only national in spirit but national in machinery. Every parent in Scotland is aware of the value and importance of that system, so that any interference with its due and continued development is a very serious matter indeed. I hope the Government will assure us not only that the superannuation scheme will be brought forward at once, but that some drastic steps will be taken to deal with the difficulty from the financial point of view. The other day we discussed the sum of £100,000, only as a temporary measure, in order to enable things to go in future as well and probably better than has been the case up to now. I repeat that everybody here is satisfied that every sovereign, every shilling, of the money will be spent in the most advantageous way possible on education in Scotland. I sincerely hope that the Government will make a definite statement today, and will be in a position to state that steps will be taken at the earliest moment in order that this matter may be dealt with as effectively as possible.
§ Captain GILMOUR
I really think that there will be very bitter disappointment, in Scotland at the announcement made today after the pretty certain hope of relief which has been held out in this matter. 171 The House of Commons agreed by the Act of 1908 to put in force a system of superannuation, and we have waited since that time for the details of the superannuation scheme. I am not going into the details or minutiæ of the scheme; I think it is sufficient for us as representatives of Scotland here, to say, the House of Commons having passed that; Act and having made up their minds as to the necessity of a scheme of this kind, that it is the bounden duty of the Government, having acquiesced in the scheme, to find the money for it. I do not know how much this scheme is going to cost, nor do I venture to make an estimate, but surely a Government who are able to make various excursions in the way of spending money, and propose to pay salaries to Members of this House, ought to be prepared—and it is a scandal that they are not—to carry out this very necessary reform, and to do justice in regard to a question which, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Ainsworth), is a question to which Scotland as a nation owes practically everything which she has at the present time. I think it is very necessary that the Government should consider their position in this matter; otherwise, it will be apparent that they are taking a step for which they have really no adequate defence whatever.
§ Mr. MORTON
The hon. Member for the Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir Henry Craik) has attempted to lecture us in the best schoolmaster style, but fortunately he calls himself or his party insignificant.
§ Mr. MORTON
I wish to point out that I do not remember having seen the hon. Gentleman here last Thursday, when we attempted to discuss this matter.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I happened to be attending a meeting of my constituents, who were roused to alarm by another proposal of the Government.
§ Mr. MORTON
His constituents might have allowed him to come here. I agree with a good deal that has been said on the other side, but we, on these benches, knew nothing about this withdrawal of the scheme until to-day. It is worthy of note that the Scottish supporters of the Government are the last to hear of any matter of this kind, and the scheme has been withdrawn without consulting the Scottish 172 Members, so far as I know, in any way whatever. Parliament has already decided that there should be a superannuation scheme, and why it is withdrawn we have not been told. This is not a political matter that we need squabble about or deal with from a party point of view, and I was astonished to hear the Lord Advocate make this abrupt announcement with regard to the scheme, and I do think we are not treated rightly, nor have the teachers in Scotland been treated rightly, by the Government. This matter unfortunately comes within the province of the Secretary for Scotland as well as that of the Lord Advocate. That is one of the difficulties we are under at the present moment. I do hope that we shall have some explanation in regard to this matter. The question of money does not trouble my mind much, because Scotland already contributes very largely to the Imperial fund, and, therefore, there ought to be no difficulty in finding the additional amount necessary for this scheme. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will at least endeavour to get the Secretary for Scotland, or whoever is in charge of this matter, to do something so that it may be brought on speedily and dealt with. Not being a party question, it can be considered and decided in the best interests of the nation. We know what Scotland and the world owe to Scottish education, and we do not want to treat it in the way in which it is being treated at the present moment. I do say this, as emphatically as I possibly can, that in all these matters the Government ought to consult Scottish Members on these benches when they want to make any change of policy, so as to have us with them if possible. The way in which we have been treated on this occasion to my mind is not right at all. As far as I am concerned, I am only too glad to have the support of the small party opposite in regard to this subject, and in letting the Government know and the Scottish Department know that this is not the proper way in which to deal with a question of this sort, or in which to treat Scottish Members. I sincerely hope that instead of allowing agitation to spread all over Scotland, after the newspapers are seen to-morrow, the Government will reconsider their position.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I should like to support what was said by the hon. Member for Glasgow University. I quite recognise that there are two sides 173 to this question. I know that the superannuation scheme has caused alarm in many constituencies. I know that in one of the boroughs which I represent the people are afraid that it will raise their rates by twopence in the pound, and I quite see that it is unpopular for that reason; but I do not think that that justifies the Government in breaking faith with the teachers. The scheme has been passed. It is an Act of Parliament. It has been carefully considered. For two years we have been waiting for it, and now, when the teachers believed that they were going to get it, they are suddenly told that the whole thing is going to be shelved. Why cannot the Government, I would like to ask, get a Treasury grant in order to keep faith and keep their honour with the teachers? I do not think that that is too much for us to ask, and that they should carry out their undertakings and the Act of Parliament. If you consider the position of some of those old teachers who are just about to be superannuated. I do think that they are being most unfairly treated. All their hopes are thrown to the winds, and the promises the Government gave to them are set at nought. I think their position is one which we, as Members of Parliament, ought not to countenance. Although I quite realise that there are difficulties connected with the subject, I certainly think that a Treasury grant would put an end to those difficulties, and I appeal to the Government not to break faith with those people who are a most deserving set of people, and who have done well by their country.
I think the Debate, in many cases, so far as it has gone, has proceeded under a misconception. Nearly every hon. Member said that the superannuation scheme had been withdrawn. I did not understand the Lord Advocate to say that this afternoon, but I understood him to say that it was merely being postponed.
What I understood the Lord Advocate to say was that it was postponed until after the National Insurance Bill had gone through.
The right hon. Gentlemen, perhaps, will make it clear when 174 he speaks what exactly he did say. At any rate, what I understood him to say was that after the National Insurance Bill had passed through the House he would approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the necessary funds to carry out the superannuation scheme, and that, as speedily as possible, the superannuation scheme would become law. I would like to add, for my part, just one word in support of what has been said in respect to the necessity of passing the superannuation scheme as speedily as possible. I do think that the teachers have waited a sufficiently lengthy period. There are, as several hon. Members have pointed out, many teachers who will shortly be superannuated, and I do think that the postponement of this scheme may possibly bring about certain hardships in the effects upon those teachers. I know, as the hon. Member for St. Andrew's Boroughs (Major Anstruther-Gray) pointed out, that there is the other side of the question, which is the School Board side of the question, and we are asked to postpone this scheme until the School Boards know whether they are to receive an extra Grant in respect of the staffing of schools and so on. At any rate, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see, so far as he is able, that this scheme speedily becomes law.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I wish to join in the protest against the announcement made to-day. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the feeling in this matter is not confined to those who sit upon the opposite side of the House. It is not merely dissatisfaction that will be felt in Scotland, and that is felt among those of us who heard the announcement to-day, but it is the very strongest and bitterest resentment at the way in which this subject has been dealt with, and we will feel if this attitude is persisted in that there is something that can be described as resembling a breach of faith on the part of the Government towards teachers in Scotland, and not merely the teachers, but towards the whole educational system of Scotland. English teachers have already got their superannuation scheme. We in Scotland have for many years made greater sacrifices for education than any other part of the United Kingdom. Education means more to us. Education is a greater national institution, and into it a much greater part of the life of Scotland has been transfused. It is a monstrous thing that if a slight is to be inflicted on Scotland it should 175 be inflicted in respect of education, of all things in the world. It is agreed on all hands that there are certain difficulties with regard to the scheme which has been proposed, but those difficulties and those criticisms which have been made do not affect the principle of the scheme itself. They are directed entirely to one detail. Throughout Scotland and throughout every public institution in Scotland there is absolute unanimity in the approval of a superannuation scheme for teachers, and now because of criticisms from the point of view of one detail it is proposed not to alter the scheme, not to change the scheme, not to meet the criticism, but to postpone the whole matter indefinitely. If the Government admit that the finance of the scheme is wrong then there is a case not for postponing it, but for providing for the finance by some other way. If the Government admit that the finance is wrong then the obligation lies on them to provide for the finance by other means at once. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that unless this position is modified they will have considerable trouble from the benches behind them when the House resumes.
§ Sir WALTER MENZIES
I am not sure that I exactly take up the position of the last hon. Member with regard to deferring the superannuation scheme. I must acknowledge I have no resentment against the Government in that way. It appears to me that where we are to tax the ratepayers of Scotland with a very considerable amount of new taxation we ought to be able to show them where they are to find the money. If the money is only to be found from the taxpayers in Scotland, and without any help from the Treasury, then I do think that we had better defer the superannuation scheme until we know where to get the money from. The particular point which I wish to bring before the House is that if this superannuation scheme is brought forward as a Minute of the Scottish Education Department then that appears to be a very considerable stretch of the power of legislation by a Department of State, where you would have in this case the Scottish Education Department passing by Minute a scheme of superannuation which would tax the taxpayers of Scotland by something like £40,000 extra, while we who sit here to represent the taxpayers of Scotland will have no power to say a single word about the details of that scheme.
§ Sir H. CRAIK
The scheme was instituted originally by the Act of Parliament of 1908. It was drawn up in pursuance of that Act.
§ Sir W. MENZIES
I am quite aware that there is some proposal for superannuation in the Act of 1908, but I am not aware that it states specifically that the taxpayers of Scotland require to be taxed for that superannuation. I do insist as strongly as I can that you have no right to bring in a scheme and tax people through a Minute. It ought to be brought forward by a Bill which will pass through this House with the ordinary routine. By this scheme of Minute what we have to do is to place a formal notice on the Paper. I have done that myself, and I know of its futility. We place the notice on the Paper against the scheme, and we must discuss it after eleven o'clock at night. That method is quite useless, and it takes all power from the Scottish Members of Parliament with regard to the details of the scheme. I do sincerely trust that the Lord Advocate will reconsider the answer which he gave to me when I put a supplementary question to him to-day. I do not know whether the people of England would allow themselves to be taxed for a superannuation scheme for teachers by Minute of their Department, but what I do know is that the people of Scotland have no right whatever to receive or to bear increased taxation through the Minute of any Department of State.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Colonel GREIG
I should not have intervened had it not been that this discussion had arisen. I was not, unfortunately, in the House when the Lord Advocate gave his answer. It has seemed to me from the speeches on both sides that there must be some misunderstanding on this matter. I admit at once that I do not approach the subject with the same intimate knowledge on the question of education as some of my colleagues on these benches. But I may say I am devoting myself to the very able reports of the Scottish Education Department with a view to acquiring that knowledge. I think, as I say, that there must be some misunderstanding on this matter. If I mistake not, the Act says that there shall be an Order laid on the Table of the House for forty days that objections may be made, and that after the objections are considered the Order may come into operation. As I understand the matter, what has happened is this. A superannuation scheme has been placed before the public, 177 and I am as much in favour as anyone of the principle of superannuation, and I am also thoroughly with my colleagues, both on this and on the other side of the House, in their intense feeling as to the primary importance of Scottish education. But two new facts have come out lately. We have the National Insurance Scheme before the country, in a Bill which includes large classes, and specifically exempts the teachers from that scheme altogether, in view of the fact that they are to be dealt with by superannuation in some other way. Until we see what is the bearing of that scheme, and the Insurance Bill is still sub judice, upon any suggested scheme of superannuation, how can we say it is wrong to at least give further time for discussion? I think there may be an explanation of the question.
I have received a letter this morning, and I suppose other Members have received similar letters, which raises a distinct protest against any further expenditure being incurred in Scotland for the purpose of education without provision of further funds for the purpose by the State. It is "a protest against the ever-growing expenditure," and particularly against the passing of a Minute of this kind, "until the details of the adjustment of the proportion payable by local and Imperial rates has been determined in favour of the former." We all know that at the present moment the contributions of the local and Imperial rates are under consideration, and if we are going to pass this superannuation scheme it may have to be altered hereafter in consequence of the readjustment between local rates and Imperial subventions. It seems to me very businesslike that at least we should wait awhile. I do not know what (he explanation is, but I feel assured that it will be on these two lines. I must confess again my full sympathy with the Members on both sides who are in favour of the superannuation scheme. I do not associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities (Sir H. Craik) in what perhaps he will allow me to call his heated oratory on the subject. And I rather think that when we come to hear what the Lord Advocate has to say he will show that there has been a misunderstanding, and that in the long run we will get a scheme that will fit in well with the general expectation.
Before the Lord Advocate makes his reply I would like to ask one or two questions. Like many other Mem- 178 bers I have received a large number of letters on this subject this morning. I wish to ask whether in his view the postponement of this measure will at all affect teachers who, according to age, will have to retire; whether their pension will be affected by the fact of this Minute not being carried through at the present time. This National Insurance Bill undoubtedly affects the teachers, but is that also an indication that this question is going to be put into the melting pot again. Do we know exactly where we stand in the matter? I hope he will be able to give us some indication where we are, and tell us whether the thing is to be reconsidered, whether the whole thing is to be postponed in view of the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and whether those who have to retire before this scheme comes into operation will be affected?
§ Mr. URE
It is not unnatural that this Debate should have arisen this afternoon after the answer I gave to the questions put to me by hon. Members from Scotland. I do not at all complain of the discussion that has taken place. It has revealed the deep-seated interest which all my colleagues in Scotland take in this education question. I heard with deep regret that the scheme had not been proceeded with at the time we all expected it would have been. Indeed, I feel a stronger feeling than regret, but still I think that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities were characterised by some exaggeration when he spoke of the discreditable, disreputable and shameless conduct of the Government. What are the facts? By the Act of 1908 we were authorised to frame a superannuation scheme. When I say "we," I mean the Scottish Education Department. The hon. Member for the Universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen has pointed out that there is statutory authority for framing the scheme, and unless you repeal the 14th Section of the Act, you cannot give effect to the desire which my hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire (Sir W. Menzies) expressed that we should proceed by way of a Bill. If he had examined the section for himself he would have found that ample provision is made for bringing the details of the scheme under the notice of all the parties interested, both the teachers and the School Boards, and all others, and an ample opportunity is given for moulding this scheme into such shape as might give the best effect to the desire we all have that the teachers should be 179 fairly, though not extravagantly, treated in the matter of superannuation. My hon. Friend knows better than other Members of the House the difficulties in the way of such a scheme and he recognises, I am sure, just as well as anybody, and better than many of us, that there were very minute details and laborious calculations to be made in order to bring the scheme into existence. The scheme was framed and it was under discussion a considerable time by the parties who were interested in it.
I rejoice to hear the views expressed by my colleagues from Scotland this evening in favour of the superannuation scheme, and some in favour also of the Minute relating to the staffing of the schools. The Government are very anxious to elicit the views of the Scottish Members of this House upon these topics, and I hope we may accept it that the views expressed by hon. Members not only give effect to the opinions held by the teachers in Scotland but also to the opinions of the local authorities and the School Boards in Scotland. It was thought that they were a. little lukewarm, but. I am sure now that that is not so, and that the local authorities and the School Boards are as keen as ourselves to see this scheme carried out.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to gather that from my speech at any rate. I particularly said that some local authorities were opposed to the scheme. What I did say was that is was necessary to get a Treasury grant in order not to break faith with those teachers who were promised a substantial advantage.
§ Mr. URE
I think I understood perfectly what the hon. Member meant. He expressed the view which I think is held by a great many Members of the House, and School Boards of Scotland, that however desirable a thing it should be to have this accomplished it would be undesirable that it should be accomplished at the expense of the ratepayers. Although they view the scheme favourably they are naturally very unwilling that a burden should be placed upon the shoulders of the ratepayers whose interests they have at heart, and I am sure all my colleagues from Scotland are agreed that if it involves an additional charge, a serious additional charge, upon the rates they would not Teally urge that we should go on, either with the superannuation scheme or the reform of the staffing of the schools.
§ Mr. URE
No, we will not repeal the Act, but I understand that is the view held by hon. Members who may be said to represent the school board view. I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities may look at this question from a somewhat different point of view, but let me assume that all my colleagues in Scotland are agreed that the scheme should not be gone on with if there was to be any substantial addition to the rates in consequence of the Act coining into operation. There is no doubt there would be an additional cost. I think it is exaggerated by a number of school boards. It is difficult, however, to form an accurate estimate, and it may be there will be a substantial increase, and to meet that naturally all turn to the source from which the supplies come, in order to fill up the gap, to wit, the Treasury. England, as well as Scotland, no doubt complains of the undue burden upon the local rates. It is a very large question, but I can safely say that Scotland contributes more than a fair share, so far as I am aware, and there could not be any objection on that ground. We naturally come to the Treasury, but for reasons which are well known the contributions of the Treasury have dried up and there is a gap to be filled. The right hon. Member for Aberdeen and Glasgow Universities says, "why do not you fill it, up from the Exchequer?" That is the source from which our money comes, but for reasons which are very familiar it has to some extent dried up. In these circumstances we did approach the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in my answer this afternoon I have summarised the reply which he made. I really think it was a not unnatural reply, and that if one comes to reflect upon it, it was a fair enough reply. He has this insurance scheme in hand in which Scotland would participate fully, in which Scotsmen are deeply interested, and in which Scotsmen would benefit, even on the educational side. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says: "I expect to have that scheme through before the end of the Session." We all share that expectation and desire, and he says: "Wait until I see exactly the situation, the financial situation, which will have arisen when I have the National Insurance scheme through, and then I will consider the claim of Scottish education 181 and see if this gap can be filled up." The hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Colonel Greig) gave a clear explanation of the situation. It is a mistake to suppose that we have abandoned the superannuation scheme. We have not abandoned the superannuation scheme. It is a mistake to suppose that it has been postponed on account of the criticism of the details of the scheme. There is no such criticism as would have induced us to postpone the scheme.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
May I interrupt and ask how does the Insurance Bill affect superannuation? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain that? It is an insurance scheme against sickness and invalidity.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
Does the right hon. Gentleman claim the right for this consideration to suspend an Act of Parliament passed three years ago?
§ Mr. URE
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows far better than any one in the House the exact reasons which have brought this position about. He must see quite well that if this scheme is to be a success it must have adequate funds, and he must also see that we cannot expect to get those funds from the Treasury. We also cannot expect to get the amount we need out of the rates. The money must come from the Exchequer. The reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer I gave accurately on the situation which has arisen, in consequence, first of a lack of funds, and secondly on account of the introduction of the National Insurance Bill. Surely hon. Members do not for a single moment imagine that we have broken faith with them, or intend to break faith with them.
§ Mr. MORTON
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to ask what the National Insurance Bill has to do with the matter at all?
§ Mr. URE
I have explained it quite fully, and I think, when my hon. Friend re fleets upon the question, he will understand it quite as well as I do. How can the Chancellor of the Exchequer be fairly asked at once, at one fell swoop, to give us a, sum before lie knows how he will stand in respect to the National Insurance Bill? At all events I submit for the consideration and judgment of the House, that the defence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a perfectly fair explanation and a perfectly fair defence for him to make at this stage when we went to him and asked him to fill up a gap which had unexpectedly occurred.
We are bound to go on with the scheme, which will not be lost. The hon. Gentleman says that I this afternoon said, "Not this Session." I did so for this reason; that I think it is too sanguine a view to entertain that the National Insurance Bill will become the law of the land much before the end of the Session. I think my colleagues from Scotland will see at once that it will be a very narrow fragment of Parliamentary time which will be left to adjust this superannuation scheme, and to get the amount necessary to give it life-blood before the end of the Session. I was only enlarging the same answer I had given in writing to other hon. Members when I say that this Session will scarcely see the passing of this matter into law. Let me say, before I sit down, that we have not the smallest intention of abandoning the scheme; not the smallest intention of indefinitely postponing the scheme. We desire, to go on with it at the earliest possible moment.
I have the fullest sympathy with the teachers; I understand their position perfectly well. We shall take care in the adjustment that no prejudice shall be suffered by the teachers to whom we are referring, who might under ordinary circumstances suspect that their interest would be affected if the scheme did not come into operation. It is not an Act of Parliament. It is a scheme which has to be adjusted at the hands of all interested in the question. That is really one of the great advantages of a scheme such as this over a statutory scheme. My hon. Friend (Sir W. Menzies) seems to think that we are putting a charge on the taxpayer by this scheme. We are not. We are merely 183 applying money which we have already statutory authority to raise according to the scheme, and which can be adjusted in the way described much better than it would be adjusted by a Bill, which would have to go through Committee, and the provisions of which would be rigid, fixed, and unalterable when it became an Act of Parliament. If my hon. Friend looks down the Statute of 1908 he will see that not only have you ample opportunity for adjusting your scheme, but after your scheme is fixed, you may withdraw it and produce a fresh scheme when fresh experience has brought fresh light to bear upon it.
§ Sir W. MENZIES
Is it not a fact that the scheme which is at present before us places a tax of something like £40,000 upon the ratepayers? I am not asking whether it is in the Bill of 1908 or not. I only ask if it is true that the Scottish Education Department, by its own authority, can impose this tax of £40,000 a year upon the ratepayers of Scotland?
§ Mr. URE
The scheme really does not do that at all, but if it were a scheme involving a rate—as it might—there would not be the imposition of a rate by means of the scheme. The school authority would then have to consider whether or not they would impose a rate for the purpose for which they have got statutory authority to impose that rate. The scheme simply applies money which has already been raised by statutory authority.
§ Mr. HUNT
I want just for a few minutes to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether it is a fact that the Board of Trade sanctioned a meeting of Chinese sailors at the Board of Trade offices in the East. India Dock Road, and allowed them to go down by train to Cardiff in charge of Board of Trade officials for the purpose of taking the employment of British sailors who are on strike there? May I further ask him whether these Chinamen get the same wages and food as British sailors, and if it is not so, whether the help, if given to them by the Board of Trade, is not a direct encouragement to undercut British with Chinese or other labour? Is not that against all the principles of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. Take the case of the Chinese in South Africa. Was not the argument used that they were to supplement black labour, so that more white men would be employed. In this 184 case, as I understand it, these men went down with a Board of Trade official for the very purpose of taking away the employment of the British sailors on strike. I do not know whether Labour Members are present, but it would be interesting to know what they think of the matter. Perhaps, also, the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether the same thing could be done in regard to land employment: whether the Board of Trade would ever allow it, or help to get Chinamen to displace, British workmen on strike? I confess I cannot understand, after all the agitation there has been, how the Government or, for the matter of that, the Labour party can allow Chinamen to be employed on British ships to do the work of the British sailor. Might I just ask a further question? When I try to ask these questions, I find I am out of order. Do the Government, may I ask, intend to take any action on the Report issued by the Committee on Railway Agreements and on amalgamation? To be exact the words are as follows:—We think, however, that the whole question of the law and practice affecting; the throughout charges made on traffic exported from or imported into this country is one which requires investigation.The matter has to do with the charges that are made on British produce and produce that comes from abroad. The hon. Gentleman opposite said to-night, in answer to a question, that it does not prove that British produce is charged more; that there is nothing to prove that British produce, fruit and vegetables in particular, was charged more than that coming from abroad.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Tennant)
May I interrupt? The hon. Gentleman has a little misunderstood my answer. What I said was there had been a Committee appointed to investigate these very allegations that foreign produce was unduly favoured by the railway companies, and the report of that Committee had been to the effect that there was no-evidence to prove anything of the kind.
§ Mr. HUNT
What the Committee distinctly say is that it is a matter which requires investigation. If that is so, if they reckon that the matter wants investigation, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will have the matter investigated, because, as the law stands at present, the companies that keep within the law have not only to run against the competition of several other companies, 185 but against sea carriage. Foreign produce gets the advantage of cheap sea carriage and cheap land carriage. There is the very well-known instance of the carriage of beef from London to Birmingham. I would ask whether the right hon. Gentleman, as the Committee says the matters wants investigation, will investigate it? It is perfectly well-known, and the right hon. Gentleman knows, that the farmers all over the country complain bitterly that the British railways, as a matter of fact, do carry foreign produce cheaper than British produce.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Buxton)
The hon. Member who has just sat down rose to put a question in connection with the employment of Chinese in certain cases in reference to the present dispute. He gave me no notice, and I therefore have had no opportunity of refreshing my memory upon what has been alleged. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will look into the matter, and he may say something in reply to the hon. Gentleman. As regards the other point brought forward by the hon. Gentleman, I understood he said there were within his knowledge or within his information specific cases in which the Board of Trade officers had allowed Chinamen to be engaged to take the place of some of the seamen on strike in connection with the present dispute between them and the shippers. I would ask for particulars—dates, names, and places. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is entitled to make general charges of that kind.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I did not hear the first few remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, but I understand that what he said was that certain Board of Trade officials had induced these Chinamen to take the places of the seamen on strike, and I say I want particulars of any such cases, and that I am entitled, on behalf of my officers, to call upon the hon. Gentleman to give particulars of the places, times, and circumstances in regard to which he makes his accusation.
§ Mr. HUNT
Just one moment. I put this not as an accusation, but simply I wanted to ask whether the hon. Gentleman's attention has been called to the charge made that Chinese sailors had been at the Board of Trade Office in the East India Dock Road for the purpose of applying there in order to be allowed to replace British sailors now on strike, and what I wished to know was whether it was the case and with his sanction that these foreign sailors went by train to Cardiff in charge of Board of Trade official for the purpose of taking the place of the British sailors on strike. I took the precaution of writing to the newspaper in which this was reported to ask them whether the thing was true or not.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I understand the position of the hon. Gentleman now is, he say9 ho saw in a newspaper a certain vague statement that certain Chinese sailors held meetings, and that the procedure then was that, on the assurance of Board of Trade officials, they were to apply to be allowed to take the place of the strikers.
§ Mr. BUXTON
The hon. Gentleman must have enough public experience to know in the first place that the head of a Department does not see everything written in the newspapers with regard to his Department, and that if he did it certainly is not his duty to deny every statement and every allegation that is made.
§ Mr. BUXTON
If the hon. Gentleman gives me the dates and the time and place and circumstances I shall make inquiries, but I venture to say there is not a word of truth in the allegation made that the Board of Trade went out of their way in 187 regard to these Chinamen taking the place of British sailors. The Board of Trade is under statutory regulations, and I can assure hon. Members, as I have already assured correspondents, and as the country desires, the Board of Trade and the President of the Board of Trade intends in reference to this dispute to maintain absolute neutrality in regard to this dispute, and as to our future policy under which we carry out our obligations. We propose to carry them out with the most absolute and complete impartiality in regard to both sides. I venture to say for my officials there is no change in regard to that, and we have not departed by one hair's-breadth in regard to our altitude towards the Chinamen. This is a question to which I have given very considerable attention, and I wish to say that our regulations are stricter than they used to be. So far as the strike is concerned they are just as they were some weeks ago, and they will remain the same. I assure hon. Members again that in this matter we will maintain absolute neutrality, and I venture to deny across the floor of the House any allegation of partiality whatever made against the Board of Trade. At the same time I shall be glad if the hon. Gentleman will give me particulars of any case that may come to his notice, and I will have it fully investigated.
§ Mr. NOEL BUXTON
I beg leave to call the attention of the House back to a subject, which, although not exciting, is yet one of great importance to the fishery industry both of England and Wales. I venture to suggest that the attitude of the Board of Fisheries and the action taken towards the fishing industry are not commensurate with the importance of the industry. The interests involved amounts to something of not less than £8,000,000 of produce. The men employed in it number over 100,000, and the subsidiary trades concerned account for over 200,000 more, and the exports from this country is not less than £4,500,000. I wish specially to call attention to the interests of the inshore fishermen. The interests of the inshore fishermen are really coterminous with the interests of the larger capitalists employed in other branches of fisheries. Yet,, roughly speaking, it is the inshore interests that are conspicuously neglected. How great that interest is we are not exactly able to inform ourselves from the reports of the Board of Agriculture, but taking that interest as a whole no one denies the im- 188 portance of it. Yet looking at the information supplied respecting it we cannot well follow it. It is an interest of the very greatest magnitude.
The inshore fisheries supply the poorest part of the population, yet we find very little indeed in regard to them in the reports on the rural fisheries. It must be remembered that the inshore fisheries also supply the wealthier classes with things they value very much. Certain Members of this House are not uninterested in the supply of fresh lobsters, and I am under the impression that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture is one of those who in self thinks that the lobster fishery should be well maintained. I ask the hon. Gentleman's attention to this matter, and his Interest in pushing forward the concerns of these smaller men. Their numbers are roughly 20,000 scattered round the coast of England, with subsidiary interests employing about 40,000 more, and a whole population employed or depending on that employment is roughly 100,000. We have no official figures to go upon, and I would ask why it is that these reports have been notoriously delayed while there is at the head of the Board of Fisheries a gentleman who, as its President, is perhaps the greatest living authority on fisheries. I ask why we should be still waiting for the reports of the Board, not for one year, but for two years?
There has been, perhaps, a certain assumption that the small man, the non-capitalist man, has got to go. That is an assumption which I entirely deny, and from which we have first of all to getaway. It was prevalent in connection with agriculture, but we have got very far from that now, and definitely thrown over the idea by the passing of the Small Holdings Act that the little man has got to go If there were reasons for adopting a special policy in regard to agriculture for the assistance of the small men, surely there are equal reasons with regard to fisheries. There are the same strong arguments and much fewer difficulties. You have no conflict of interests between the big and the small man in the fishery industry, and there is plenty of room for both on the scene. You do not interfere with the big man outside by protecting the small man nearer home. On the contrary, you benefit the big man outside by preserving the spawning and breeding grounds. Many things have been pressed but few are more urgent than this, upon the Parliamentary Secretary as worthy of his 189 attention. In the first place investigation is admitted by all to be urgently needed. England has been behind Sweden and other countries, and it is actually a fact that in the last published reports it is stated that £200 was the amount subscribed by the Department to Liverpool and £100 to Newcastle, and the Board was precluded from lack of funds from acceding to the applications of similar institutions. That is a very discreditable state of things to which no wonder the Board calls attention. It seems to be starving investigation which would lead to greater prosperity in these industries. The report of the Board no doubt deals with matters of great human interest and interests which are less statistical. But why should we not have figures to show the extent of the in shore interests in the smaller districts. The recent statistics included nothing smaller than a fleet of three-ton crafts. We have a large list of places where there are small fisheries and there are 350 centres round the coast of England and Wales in which there ought to be a habitat to collect statistics, yet we have no figures in regard to these places. We want more attention paid to these industries and towards their preservation. We want to know more about the three-mile limit, whether it is the right figure and the best, for protection, and we want to know more about the whole question of the population engaged in this industry, and the question of securing the aid of co-operative societies. The three-mile limit is a question I particularly ask the Parliamentary Secretary to pay attention to. It is very doubtful whether we ought to maintain on pure grounds of economies the three-mile limit, and it is doubtful whether it is not an erroneous principle. Not only from the point of view of the small man, but in the interests of the industry as a whole I think the question of the three-mile limit ought to be raised at the International Conference. Fines for trawling within the limit are extremely inadequate. In England and Wales the maximum is £20, but the fines imposed very often are under £3, whereas in a single night the trawler may steal a inarch upon the fishermen and make a catch worth £100 or £200 and get away quite safely. Consequently the risk is well worth taking, with the result that not only are the fishing grounds denuded of fish, but the fishermen's lines and boats are damaged. I think subsidies ought to be given to the local fisheries committees. A central authority with central funds is 190 very necessary in regard to an industry which is not merely a local, but a national interest. I presume that the Board has urged forward a certain programme already upon the Development Commissioners, but great delay has taken place, and I ask the hon. Baronet to use every expedition in urging that an adequate Grant should be applied for and devoted to assisting an industry which the nation cannot afford to neglect.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I desire to associate myself with the remarks and the appeal which has just been made by the lion. Member for North Norfolk. I think the hon. Member has presented- a very weighty case for the consideration of the Parliamentary Secretary for the Board of Agriculture. This is not a question that makes any dramatic appeal to the sympathies of the House or the country at large, but it is, nevertheless, a matter of supreme importance to the men who are toiling under circumstances of great hardship and danger in order to get a living. The points I desire to emphasise are, first, that the Fisheries Department of the-Board of Agriculture has not paid adequate attention to the special problems associated with the in-shore fisheries. I think one reason is that the men engaged in those fisheries are almost entirely unorganised and their very life seems to take them away from the ordinary method of expressing their views and of influencing public opinion. They have no trade unions, they issue no newspaper, and they have no demonstrations. They live their own solitary lives, and it is because they have been voiceless and because of this lack of organisation to assist them that so little has been done. The hon. Member for Norfolk cited, very justly, an example of what has been done with regard to agriculture as an encouragement, and as pointing the way to some of the things we desire to be done in the case of these small inshore fisheries. I suggest for the Parliamentary Secretary's consideration the appointment of special fisheries commissioners, and the creation of a separate fisheries department as a distinct branch of the Board of Agriculture.
I think it is the duty of the 'Board of Agriculture to issue annually a statement of the proceedings taken, in connection with the various Acts relating to fisheries. The last annual report issued relates to the year 1908, and I await with some curiosity the reason why in 1911 we have still only the report of 1908 upon which to base our 191 criticisms of what is being done, and from which to receive our knowledge of what steps are being taken under existing Acts. I will pass very briefly to one or two points which were not mentioned by the hon. Member for Norfolk which I think deserve the consideration of the President and the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture. In connection with Agriculture the most admirable publications have been issued by the Board from time to time, giving information and advice of the utmost importance to the small men, but no such attempt has been made with a view to giving information and advice to the small men engaged in the in-shore fisheries. It appears to me that very much good might be done if the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries would attempt the education of the men engaged in this industry in that way.
I should like in this connection to remind the House that the methods of co-operation and mutual help which are found in almost every other department of life are conspicuously absent in connection with the in-shore fisheries. There is no co-operative society and no system of insurance, so that when a fisherman loses his boat or his gear frequently he is entirely ruined. It appears to me that it is the duty of the Board by educational methods, and by avenues open to them in the course of administration to do something in this direction, and to encourage the men to proceed along more advanced and better methods with the view of being able to follow their industry under more advantageous conditions. Finally, I want to earnestly impress another point upon the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture. This also becomes a question of education. I am impressed also with the fact that in the districts where the boys from elementary schools will obtain their livings at these fisheries, no attempt is made in those schools, or afterwards, to connect the curriculum with the future career of the boys. I suggest that it is the duty of the Board to confer with the educational authorities in this matter. This point is of especial importance in connection with the development—and of what I hope is going to be a great development—of our system of continuation schools. Just as in mining villages the special problems relating to mining should be the subject of instruction in continuation schools, so in the fishing villages round our coasts adequate instructions should be provided in the continuation schools for those youths 192 who are going to spend their lives following this particular calling. I believe we can count upon a sympathetic reception being given to the proposals we are urging forward to-day. They are all of great importance. I do not, of course, expect the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture to rise in his place and promise these things straight away, but I suggest that we have submitted for his consideration some very important matters.
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I will resume my remarks to a somewhat larger audience. I wish it was a realisation of the importance of the subject with which I am dealing that brought hon. Members into the House. I will conclude with the appeal I was making to the President and the Secretary of the Board of Agriculture to give their earnest consideration to the points we have raised, which we believe vitally affect the well-being of the men engaged in this industry.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of AGRICULTURE (Sir E. Strachey)
I can assure hon. Members who have addressed their remarks to my Department at once that I do not complain of the way they have pressed this question upon the Board of Agriculture. On the contrary, I assure them the question will receive not only sympathetic consideration, but I am in a position to state that we have already done something to meet their wishes. The hon. Member for Norfolk has been good enough to tell me what his views are upon this question, and I gathered that one of his desires is that there should be a special Fisheries Commission to deal with inshore fishermen. As regards that point, I think it would be extremely undesirable in the interests of the fishing community as a whole to have such a Commission, because the interests, of the inshore fishermen and the deep-sea fishermen are bound together to a very large extent, and one benefits the other. Those who are acquainted with fishery matters know that in certain seasons of the year fishermen fish in deep water and at other seasons of the year they come nearer the coast. It would, therefore, be undesirable to have any further cleavage than at present exists, and what we want to do 193 is rather to see to what extent the interests of the inshore fishermen can be promoted with regard to the matters mentioned by the hon. Member. I deprecate very much indeed having any special management to deal with the inshore fishing industry.
The hon. Member rather talks as if there was not a special department dealing with fisheries. There is not only a separate department: it is actually housed in a separate building. I am not inclined to dispute it might be better if we had a larger staff in the Fisheries Department than we have at the present time, and the remonstrances of the hon. Member will no doubt be helpful and useful when the Board makes application to the Treasury for assistance in this matter. We desire to have special commissioners appointed— not a permanent commissioner—to inquire into such grievances of the inshore fishermen as have been brought before the House to-day, and at the present time we are asking for a sum of money to be placed at our disposal in order to have a special investigation into the matter and to have a report presented on the various subjects mentioned by the hon. Member. It is perfectly impossible for the President of the Board of Agriculture to make up his mind as to what should be done in the matter of co-operation, credit banking, loans to fishermen, and the improvement of shellfish beds unless he has full information before him; and for that purpose the Board propose to ask for a sum of money to be placed at their disposal in order that the whole of the question may be thoroughly gone into, and also that there may be an investigation on the spot as to what may be done for the advantage of fishermen, and especially inshore fishermen. I entirely agree and appreciate that these small men can be helped by co-operation as regards railway rates and greater facilities for getting their fish to the market. At the present moment they are all too often in the hands of middlemen, and they do not get the best possible prices.
The hon. Member also dealt with the question of the three-mile limit. It would not, of course, be right for me to say whether it should be extended or not. That has nothing to do with the Board of Agriculture. It is a matter for the Foreign Office. The point has been raised, however, whether we at the present moment protect the inshore fishermen, who have to deal with men coming in with steam trawlers and also with 194 cruising and fishing boats. It is alleged that at the present moment the local fishery committees, whose business it is to see the by-laws are enforced, do not sufficiently carry out their duties and see they are properly enforced. The House will not be surprised to hear that here, once again, the difficulty is a question of money, because England is in a different position to Scotland or to Ireland in this matter. My hon. Friend who represents a Scottish Division (Mr. Whitehouse) is perfectly well aware that in Scotland and in Ireland they have a Fishery Board instead of these local committees, and to the great advantage of the local ratepayers, instead of the expense falling on the local rates, in Scotland and Ireland they fall on the Exchequer. That is a question that really requires serious consideration.
I can assure my hon. Friend the Board have taken this matter up, and we have actually approached the Development Commissioners and suggested it might be desirable a loan of £50,000 should be made for the purchase of vessels for the work of controlling the inland waters, which at the present moment are not properly protected, and we also ask for an annual Grant of £8,000 a year towards the upkeep of these vessels, to be purchased, or partly purchased, by a loan. If we get these vessels it will be necessary that there should be a consultation with the local committees in order that there may be uniformity throughout the country. My hon. Friends will see the Board of Agriculture have been doing something with regard to fisheries and have not been neglecting this matter. I hope we may get sympathetic attention from the Development Commissioners owing to the complaints which have been made in the House to-day. If we appoint these inspectors, they will be able to draw up reports, on which we hope to form a scheme. We shall then at once go before the Development Commissioners, and further support the application already made to them. I think my hon. Friends will see that, instead of neglecting the interests of the fishermen the Board of Agriculture have rather anticipated their wants, and have made these applications which some people may think, although I do not, on too large a scale. The House may rest assured we shall press forward this matter, and nothing will be wanting on the part of the President of the Board and myself to see the interests of the inshore fishermen are protected, and we get the largest possible Grant from the Development Commis- 195 sioners to further develop this industry, of which we thoroughly realise the importance.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I wish very briefly to draw attention to an anomaly in the rate of pay of the telegraph clerks in the London area. I think this is not the first time it has been brought to the attention on of the postal authorities, and I was in some hopes one would get an answer to-day from the Postmaster General or from his representative on the Front Bench. Up to 1908, when, I think, the Report of the Hobhouse Commission came before the House, it was the intention of the authorities that there should be a uniform rate in the scale of pay of the telegraph staff in the Metropolitan area. From 1881 to 1908 there was practically a uniform rate of pay. When the Report of the Hobhouse Commission came before the authorities it was seen they advocated an increase of 3s. per week in the pay of the Central Telegraph staff. I am sure it must be quite clear to anybody there was some mistake, because the remaining part of the Metropolitan area was not included in this increase, and it refers to the male staff, whereas the recommendation for a further increase of pay with regard to the female staff was the same all over the Metropolitan area. It can be clearly seen there must have been a mistake, because the male staff work under absolutely the same conditions. A case may arise where there is a difference in the scale of pay between one office and another 100 yards or half a mile away. I feel certain this is wrong. The men pass the same examination and are recruited under the same conditions and work within an area where the expenses are practically the same. I think this anomaly should be rectified. I daresay it seems a small matter, but it is not a small matter if you consider the interests of the people who are directly concerned. Their scale of pay has never been a very high one, and, although I am not one of those who believe in indiscriminately putting one's hands into the pockets of the Treasury for the sake of a temporary burst of popularity, yet I think it is in the interests of any Government, as an employer of labour, to see that uniform rates of pay, as far as possible, exist, and for that reason I have brought the matter up, and I had hoped the Postmaster-General would be able to give some definite answer on the floor of the House to-day.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I wanted to raise the question of the financial policy of the Government in so far as it relates to the great fall which has taken place in the various securities over which the Chancellor of the Exchequer exercises a benign influence. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman is in his place. This is, I am afraid, not a very good opportunity for raising what I venture to say is one of the most important subjects which could possibly be raised, but as I am not sure when, under this Government, we are going to have the Second Reading of the Budget, if we ever are to have it before the end of the year, I take the opportunity which the forms of the House allow me, to raise the question now. I do not know whether the House is aware that in Consols alone, if you take the price at which they stood in 1896, there has been a fall equivalent to two hundred million sterling. I suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer is aware of that, but it is an enormous sum, which must vitally affect the interests of all those institutions and people who are unfortunate at the present time to be still holders of the national security. I do not happen to have had the opportunity of looking into the figures, but, if one looks at other British securities, I think I am not far short when I say the question is one of something like four or five hundred million sterling. The attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been called to this matter on one or two occasions during the last few days, and the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to turn the matter with a sort of tu quoque argument that at any rate the Unionist party are just as much to blame.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I have no wish to-misrepresent him. He says the Unionist party are more to blame than the Radical party. I do not admit that contention, but, if it is so, may I put this question to the right hon. Gentleman. I understood when he came into power he was going to set right the errors and mistakes of his opponents, and it is no argument to say, "I have not set these errors and mistakes right, and, because you have made errors and mistakes, I still continue to make them, and I cannot be held responsible for what is occurring, because you made similar mistakes in the past." The right 197 hon. Gentleman has apparently drawn a line between the mistakes which occurred when the right lion. Gentleman the Prime Minister was Chancellor of the Exchequer and the mistakes which have occurred whilst he has been Chancellor of the Exchequer. I find that on 15th June the right lion. Gentleman said that the London and North-Western 3 per cent. Debentures had fallen 14 per cent. in the lifetime of the Unionist Government, and only 4¾ per cent. since the date of Lloyd George finance. I do not discriminate between the finance of the Prime Minister and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think both Gentleman are wrong, and that their finance has resulted in a disastrous fall, not only in Consols, but in all English securities. It is an evasion of the issue designed to delude the House and the public to suggest that, in this particular case, the fall was only 4¾ per cent. under Lloyd Georgian finance. As a matter of fact what took place was, there was a fall of something like £13 between the highest point and the date when the Unionist Government went out of office. During that period, the Boer War took place, and we all know that, whenever a country is at war, there is a depreciation in the value of its securities. But the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is a Member, came into office in 1905, and since then there has been a fall of identically the same amount. That was during the period when the present Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to deal with the finances of the country. But I would like to point out that the fall in the latter case is if anything more serious. What are the facts? When the Unionist Government was in power there was a war, and there was a certain fall, but while the present Government has been in power there has been no war, and yet there has been an exactly similar fall. I think that shows there must be some malign influence at the root of Radical finance, which has brought about this particular result.
With regard to the price of Consols, may I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that other countries, as well as ourselves, have had wars during the last ten years. Russia and Japan have both had wars. Yet as a matter of fact, if we take the price at which Consols stood, and those at which the stocks of Russia and Japan stood in December, 1905, what do we find? In Russia there has been a rise of something like 12½ per cent.; in Japan there has been a rise of 2¾ per cent., 198 whereas in our Consols there has been a fall of 10 per cent. I may point out, in passing, that the rise in Russian securities has taken place since the date of the abolition of the first Duma. I mention that because I purchased some Russian stocks on that particular occasion, and I have been very fortunate in the result. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were to follow the precedent of Russia and abolish the House of Commons and leave the government of the country to the Lords the same result might follow and Consols might rise in the same proportion. If Russian stock can rise after a war, and seeing that the Boer War was at an earlier dale, why should not Consols have risen to an equal extent? There must be something radically wrong surely in the finance of the right hon. Gentleman. The same arguments apply to Japan. There has not been perhaps so great a rise, but still there has been an improvement.
The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell), stated the other-day that the best method in dealing with finance was to make adequate provision for the redemption of debt and to avoid new borrowings. But there was another point which he did not, mention, and that was the maintenance of confidence in the integrity and action of the Government. It is useless to reduce debt unless the people have confidence in those who direct the finances of the country and are enabled to feel that the fruits of their enterprise will not be sacrificed in order to get a few votes by bribing a portion of the electorate. All three things are important, but the most important the right hon. Gentleman omitted. He went on to say that in the five years during which the Government had been in power there had been a redemption of debt to the amount of £55,988,000. The cheers which greet that statement tell against the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. There has been a reduction in ten years of fifty-five millions of debt, and I agree in one way that one of the cheapest methods for raising the price of stock is redemption, but in this case, although there has been a redemption of £55,000,000, there has been a fall of 10 per cent. in our stock, notwithstanding that in the same period both Russian and Japanese stocks have risen! There must be something beyond the ordinary trend of events which deal with these matters to explain this position.
199 I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman altogether. I think the whole of his party are tarred with the same brush. It is not quite fair to put too much blame on the right hon. Gentleman. He says the Colonial, Trustees Act is responsible for a good deal, and that the effects of that Act are still being felt. [MR. LLOYD GEORGE: "Hear, hear."] The right hon. Gentleman is a little too soon. He is, if I may say so without offence, generally very intelligent on these points, and it would have been better if he had waited until I had finished my argument.
We have been told by the right hon. Gentleman and by his defenders, by gentlemen whom he puts up at dinners and meetings to read papers and make speeches concerning the excellent methods of his finance, that capital is leaving the country because it gets a better rate of interest abroad than here. While I was waiting to be called I took an opportunity of going into the library, and looked at the prices of certain stocks, out of mere curiosity. I found that on the 12th of this month the New South Wales 3½ per cent, stock was quoted at 97. On the same day the Great Northern 3½ per cent. preference stock—a trustee stock—was quoted at 91. I want to know why British people prefer to put their money into New South Wales 3½ per cent. at 97, instead of Great Northern at 91? [An HON. MEMBER: "Lloyd George finance."] My hon. Friend has supplied the answer. There can be no doubt there has been an enormous sum of money lost to the country, or at any rate it could not have been realised if the investments had had to be realised during the last five years. There are a very large number of institutions all over the country who, with the very best motives and intentions, because there can be no question of speculation in their case, have invested their money either in the funds of their country or in the stocks of those great enterprises, especially railway enterprises which have been sanctioned as trustee investments. In the course of my life I do not remember such a long and persistent depreciation in these securities, and never in the course of my life has there been such an appreciation in the vast majority of the securities of other countries. If the right hon. Gentleman will permit me I will show him a balance sheet of a company of which I happen to be chairman. They invested their money, with a very 200 small exception, in securities which, during the last five years, have suffered a great depreciation.
Sir F. BAN BURY
When it is a question of business one acts according to his lights, and does his best accordingly. But I may tell the hon. Member this, that, fearing in 1902–3 that we were going to be inflicted, from a financial point of view, with a Radical Government who did not know anything about finance and would be likely to be led away from the right path by hon. Members below the Gangway who have Socialistic tendencies, I took the opportunity, and it is always well to take time by the forelock, to get out of a number of English securities and to place the money in foreign securities. This has proved very greatly to our advantage, and I think I should not be far wrong if I say that there are many hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who have done the very same thing. But I am sorry if I have been led away for a moment from my line of argument. I would conclude by saying that this is a matter of vital importance to the country, and it cannot be got rid of by a light statement such as "You are another," or "When you were in power something of the same sort occurred." As a matter of fact something of the same sort did not occur, and I would point out that while under the Conservative Government there were special reasons for the fall in the price of Consols, namely, the Boer War, and the reduction of interest, which, I think, accounts for about 9 per cent. of the fall. Under the present Government there were no exceptional circumstances, and yet the fall continued in a very disastrous manner. This, as I said before, is an extremely serious question which demands serious and careful investigation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that the two remedies are adequate provision for the redemption of debt and the avoidance of borrowing. As to the first the right hon. Gentleman has not made adequate provision for the redemption of the National Debt because he has reduced the sum available for the Sinking Fund by £5,000,000. When the Radical Party came into office the amount devoted to the service of the debt was £23,000,000. It is now £23,000,000, and therefore the difference, a sum of £5,000,000, has been taken off the Sinking Fund, and this in face of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman 201 only yesterday said that it was necessary that there should be a maintenance of adequate provision for the redemption of the National Debt. As to the avoidance of borrowing I am not sure he has done that because he is still borrowing in respect to Irish land. That, of course, is a Conservative measure, but I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that I voted against the Second and Third Readings of that measure because I thought it would have a bad effect upon the finance of the country. I make him a present of that statement because, undoubtedly, from the financial point of view the measure was a mistake, but it had a very small effect upon the finances of the country.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will really consider this matter and will endeavour to curb the extravagance of his friends below the Gangway. Only a few days ago there was a question raised in this House about railway accidents and one of the Labour Party said that it did not matter what the cost was they could not allow the fireman of an engine to step into a signal box to tell the signalman that his train was there. He said there must be some appliance which would perform this duty, but you cannot do all these things at the State expense and keep the credit of the country up. If you are going to insist on such expenditure, rightly or wrongly, the effect is that the confidence of the investor in English securities is shaken. I used a few years ago when I was in business in the City to be considered to have some experience in this matter, and I remember people coming into my office five or six years ago, and saying for the first time that they did not want to put their money into English securities because they were afraid of the Radical party. It is undoubted—whether the step is right or wrong I do not argue— that large sums of money are gone out of the country, and the consequence is the very large fall in the value of English securities which has taken place in the last five years. I apologise to the House for the very ineffective way in which I have endeavoured to deal with this very grave question. I have endeavoured to deal with it in a non-party manner. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, I have stated the facts, and if they redound to the credit of my party all the better. I have endeavoured to make no exaggerations, but merely to state facts, and I trust that what I have said will lead the right hon. Gentleman to reform his ways.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do not think the hon. Baronet need apologise for calling attention to this very important subject. I am very glad he has done so, but when he claims that he has only stated facts there I must disagree with him. I will give the House his notion of stating facts. He says that we have reduced the payment of debt to £23,000,000, whereas as a matter of fact it stands at £24,500,000. His notion of stating facts is to be wrong by about £1,500,000, and that is a very good illustration of the rest of his facts.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No, it stands at £24,500,000, as it has stood for some time. Still the fact remains that the hon. Baronet was wrong by £1,500,000. But what is the complaint of the hon. Baronet? If it means anything at all it means this, that he wants to give some colour to the statement that the fall in securities is entirely attributable to the Liberal Government and to nothing which preceded it. I want to point out that he is not only wrong in his facts but he has ignored considerations which are present to his mind, and which he is the last man in the world who has the right to conceal from the House of Commons. There are some men in this House who know very little about finance. I am not complaining of that. It is not their walk in life, but the hon. Baronet does know, and I think the House of Commons is entitled to have from him, at any rate, a full, fair, and candid statement when he refers to finance. I will give the House of Commons his notion of candour when he comes to deal with questions of finance. What are the facts? He says, that my case is that the Liberal Government is less to blame than the Conservative Government, but I never admitted that the Liberal Government was to blame. The blame, such as it is, rests entirely at the door of the Conservative Government. I do not say the whole of the fall is attributable to them. I have never said so. There are certain conditions which the hon. Baronet knows very well apply to all countries and which have depressed gilt-edged securities in every country in the world except the two countries which he mentions. And I will mention the reason he singled out the only two countries where Government stock has gone up in the last few years, and I will show the conditions under which that happens. These are conditions 203 which neither a Conservative nor a Liberal Government could be held responsible for. What are the main reasons which are responsible for the fall in gilt-edged securities? I challenge him to contradict a single one of them. The first is the enormous borrowing on account of war-like operations both here and in Russia and Japan. If you absorb hundreds of millions of money which otherwise would have gone into enterprise for the purposes of war, that is bound to have an effect upon securities in every country in the world. Does anybody doubt that?
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Take the French war of 1870. The right hon. Gentleman, if he will look, will find that there was an enormous amount of money borrowed in 1870, and that did not depreciate securities.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Does the hon. Baronet mean to say that if you put on the market something like 200 or 300 millions of money and borrow it, that that is not going to affect securities in every market in the world? Does he really mean to make himself responsible for that statement in this House?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I think the hon. Gentleman can leave the hon. Baronet to take care of himself. He is a much more experienced Parliamentarian. I do not think ho needs protection from anybody else or from a Gentleman who has not been very long in this House.
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
But I have been longer in finance than a country solicitor, and that is what we are talking about now.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That is an example of the courtesies of Debate as shown by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am perfectly certain the hon. Baronet did not say it, and I do not think he needs such a defender.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
If I may be allowed to proceed, with the protection of the Chair, I shall follow the argument 204 which I was presenting to the House that undoubtedly the absorption of hundreds of millions of money in war-like operations and placing it on the market must necessarily depreciate securities. Nobody denies that. Then I come to the second point, which is peculiarly applicable to this country, and it is that if you throw open Trust Securities to Colonial investment you are bound to depreciate the value of gilt-edged securities in this country, and I would ask the hon. Baronet, does he really deny that the Colonial Securities Act has had the effect of depreciating gilt-edged securities in this country? I do not think he would deny it for a moment. If he did he is the very first financial authority that has ever done it either in this House or outside it. Therefore you have two causes, for neither of which the Liberal Government is responsible. The first is the Japanese War for which we were not responsible, the South African War for which we were not responsible, and the Colonial Securities Act for which also we were not responsible. The three main causes for the fall of securities in this country are entirely attributable to causes for which at any rate a Liberal Government is not responsible. I will come to the third cause which was mentioned by the hon. Baronet himself, and he is prepared to accept the responsibility of his party as regards that. That is the constant borrowing in respect of Irish land. Will anybody deny that if you go into the City constantly to borrow four or five million pounds—insistently year after year—it is not going to have the effect of depreciating securities. Everybody knows that it will, and the hon. Baronet himself knows it. Here we have three causes: the South African War, the Colonial Trustees Act, and Irish Land, and three of them that a Conservative Government is entirely responsible for. They were not responsible for the Russo-Japanese War.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
That may be so, but I do not want to attribute any responsibilily to them which is remote. But they are directly responsible for three out of the four causes of that which the hon. Baronet comes here to complain and his Friends in the country say a Liberal Government is responsible for. The Liberal Government is not responsible for three out of four of those causes, and the Conservative Government is responsible, but he has the cool- 205 ness to go to the country and say a Liberal Government is responsible. The hon. Baronet said look at other countries, but he did not say look at all. He said look at Russia and Japan, and those are the only countries in the world that he referred to.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Why did the hon. Baronet omit reference to all the other countries? Why did not he take Germany, France, or the United States of America?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I do ask the hon. Baronet if he will allow me to proceed. I gave him a most perfect hearing, and I have a right to reply. Why did the hon. Baronet omit all those countries—the great countries which industrially are our competitors? Why did he omit those? Is there a Radical Government in Germany? Is there any change of Government in Prance? Did France have a Conservative Government when its securities were high? Has Franco now a Radical Government when its securities are low? What about the United States of America? In 1906, on 1st January, when the Liberal Government came into power, the United States securities stood at 133. On 16th June this year they stood at 117½. Let me give the others. Austria stood at 101 on 1st January, 1906, and on 16th June of this year was down at 92½. Germany stood at 99 on 1st January, 1906, and is down at 94 on 16th June. If the hon. Baronet will look at any country in the world except Russia and Japan he will find that there has been a drop during those years. In France, on 1st January, 1906, they stood at 99, and on 16th June they stood at 94, so that in France there has been a drop of five points between those dates. In this country there have been causes which do not operate in France or Germany or any of these countries, and that is that for the first time Colonial investments have been thrown open to trust securities. There is a new element, and a continuing element, and in spite of that there has been a constant drop in these countries during these 206 years. Is that due to Radical Governments? Why have these facts been concealed from the public? Why are poor investors filled with apprehension and anxiety about their investments by the withholding of that which they ought certainly to be told by people who pretend to be great financial authorities, and, under the guise of financial authorities, are narrow partisans attempting to mislead the public? These are the facts with regard to each of these cases.
I now come to Russia and Japan. What has happened in Russia? The hon. Baronet takes Russia when she was in a state of revolution. No one knew what was going to happen. There was not a man either in this country or anywhere else who would guarantee the stability of the Government in Russia at that time. From day to day no one could predict what was going to happen. Since then Russia has had a stable Government with none of these fears with regard to it. There was bloodshed, there was fighting in the streets; men were shot down by the hundred and thousand, and the hon. Baronet takes a country in that state and compares it with the same country after its credit has been restored. This is really an example of what he called the facts which he gives to the public in order to create a prejudice against the finance of a Liberal Government. I still adhere to every statement which I made— in fact, they have not been challenged. The fall in gilt-edged securities in this country between 1898 and the date when the Conservative Government left office is much more considerable than the fall which has happened between 1906 and the present date. I think it is something more than twice in Consols and in other gilt-edged securities. It is due to causes over which we have no control at all and for which the Conservative Government are in the main responsible, but not entirely, because they are causes which operate in every other country in the world. The hon. Baronet asked why people should invest in 3½ per cents, in New South Wales in preference to 3½ per cents. here. I do not know what point he thinks he is making there. There is a Labour Ministry in New South Wales. Its programme is very much more advanced than ours. We have put on a halfpenny Land Tax. I am not sure that in New South Wales it is not already three-farthings, and I am perfectly certain there is a very drastic Land Bill before their Parliament of a character which has never 207 been proposed by a Liberal Government here, and then the hon. Baronet says:—That is a country I will invest in—[SIR F. BAXBURY: Oh no; I never said that.]give me a real Radical Government—you are too timid —not a sort of tentative laud proposal like yours. Give us an out-and-out Socialist or Labour Ministry which will go the whole hug, and I will advise all my clients to invest in it.That is a very valuable admission. That is the only case which he has given. There is another case which the hon. Baronet's speech indicated. He said he was chairman of a company. I am not sure he did not say he took the responsibility of advising that it should invest its money in foreign securities. Has not that something to do with it? If you get a party which represents almost halt the people of this country, and a majority of the people in the city decrying British industries, British trade, British commerce. British banking, British investments, and decrying their own country and saying that its industries have gone, that it has no future at all, that it has been ruined by Radical Governments and by Free Trade, how can you expect people not to feel a certain apprehension with regard to their future? If the hon. Gentleman really wants to help British securities let him have a little more faith in his own country. Let him have faith in the common-sense of the majority of the people, whether they are Liberals or Conservatives. The prosperity of the country has not been built up by Conservatives nor by Liberals, but by the people as a whole, by the industrious people, the thrifty people, the people who work hard. Why does not the hon. Baronet say that he has confidence in his fellow countrymen, whatever their complexion in politics or in general? If he says that he will do far more to help restore in the City the confidence in British securities, which men in the City themselves have done their very best to help to create a diffidence in, than by making speeches of this character, which, though nominally and ostensibly financial, are really partisan and political.
§ Mr. KEBTY- FLETCHER
The right hon. Gentleman has taken a lot of countries and shown how the price of securities has fallen. The hon. Baronet pointed out two countries, Russia and Japan, which he chose because they had been through a severe war. We have been through a war, so it is only fair to take 208 that case. We know that war involves a great waste of men and material, and it is a terrible scourge. The right hon. Gentleman took all these countries about which the facts as we know them do not concern us. It is quite true that after the Boer War closed our Consols fell, but, of course, the Conservative party was not responsible for the Boer War. It was the surrender of Majuba by the Liberal Government that led up to the Boer War. If you take these three countries, Japan, Russia, and ourselves, you find that Russian and Japanese securities have risen and ours have fallen. The only reason for that is lack of confidence. You cannot have one of your chief Officers of State going to Limehouse and making all the statements he did there attacking people and institutions without injuring prosperity and confidence. You cannot have confidence when one of your chief Officers of State goes about the country making speeches of the same kind as you hear in Hyde Park. On the hustings we hear a great deal about retrenchment from the Radical party. When we come to this House they pour the money out, their hands are always in the till, they pitchfork their friends into offices—for example, a partner of the Chancellor of the Exchequer received a Government appointment the other day.
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
No, I did not. What I said was that a former partner of his in a business concern, a gentleman named Davis, got a Government position. Is that so or not?
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
Mr. A. T. Davis, a former business connection ire Liverpool, did he or did he not get a Government office?
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
No gentleman of the name of Davis, of Liverpool, was ever a partner in my office.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I must ask the hon. Member to substantiate his statement. His statement was that a former partner of mine, or someone in my firm, received a Government office. Either he ought to withdraw or substantiate it.
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
Allow me to put the matter quite clearly. A business connection of the Chancellor of the Exchequer called Mr. A. T. Davis, a solicitor, of Liverpool, got a Government appointment, and I suggest it was through the right hon. Gentleman's influence.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
Mr. Davis had no business connection with me at all, absolutely none, if by business connection he means he had anything whatever to do with my business in any shape or form. If he means that I knew Mr. Davis or had met him in business—
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and I withdraw if I am wrong. It can be confirmed.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has already withdrawn the statement with regard to the partner, and said he did not intend that, but that the gentleman referred to had been connected with the Chancellor of the Exchequer in business. We may leave the matter there.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. KEBTY-FLETCHER
I suggest that the only fair way of dealing with Consols or Government securities in these countries is that you must take as far as you can perfectly fair parallel cases. The parallel cases are Japan, Russia, and England. All these countries have suffered from devastating wars. While the securities of Russia and Japan have risen, English securities have fallen, and my hon. Friend says that that is because of the lack of confidence in the commercial world in respect of our securities.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
I rise to bring before the House an Irish matter in regard to which I have put some questions to the Chief Secretary for Ireland during the past few days without getting altogether 210 satisfactory answers. We on this side have not had many opportunities during this Session of discussing Irish affairs in. the House. Technically, I know that hon. Members who belong to the Nationalist party are Members of the Opposition, but these Gentlemen do not vote with me in the same Lobby. They have the right to ask for days on which Irish affairs can-be discussed, but actually they do not. I am emboldened, therefore, to ask the indulgence of the House to bring forward a question of boycotting. We have had a great deal in the speeches made by Irish Members about a policy of conciliation, and we have had all sorts of pledges given, as to how the minority are to be protected after Home Rule has come about. I should be an ungracious and a very bad Irishman if I were to say that everyone of those speeches was bunkum. I should be doubly foolish in saying so, for this reason. Hon. Members know very well that the Irish Nationalist party is split up all over Ireland into two factions, and particularly in the county of Cork. That county is divided up between members of the United Irish League and the All for Ireland League. Hon. Members from Ireland know that the All for Ireland League and the United Irish League do not altogether see eye to eye. I have in my possession a manifesto issued by the All for Ireland League in which they condemn the foolish Parliamentary strategy of the other league by which land purchase has been sacrificed. I confess that I do not always see eye to eye with the All for Ireland League myself; but I see eye to eye with them on this matter. They say they look to the abolition of landlordism to pacify Ireland. I too, believe that the first thing Ireland wants is the completion of the great scheme of land purchase. [An HON. MEMBER: "With big prices to the landlords."] The All-for-Ireland League think that the completion of land purchase will make Home Rule a reality. My belief is that it will kill the demand for Home Rule.
The boycotting to which I wish to call attention is being practised in a district where the United Irish League hold sway. There are one or two curious aspects in this case which I wish to bring before the House. What are the facts? About 1880 or 1881 there was a certain Denis Murphy who held a farm not very far from Curraclough, county Cork. He got in arrear with his rent, and was evicted by his landlord. The rent was £70, and Sir Augustus Warren proposed to 211 put him back at a rent of £33. Denis Murphy, perhaps wrongly or perhaps rightly, refused to pay that rent, and suffered eviction. Eighteen months after the farm was let to Richard Kingston, a Protestant, at a rent of £50. Mr. Kingston farmed the land for a time, and eventually when the Land Purchase Act became law he purchased the farm outright As showing the great advantages which the Act confers on Irish tenants, I may mention that he only pays an annuity of £27 in respect of the land, the purchase price of which is repayable in sixty-eight and a-half years. Meanwhile Mr. Denis Murphy died, leaving a family of eight. Some of the family emigrated. About eighteen months ago one of his sons returned to Ireland, attracted no doubt by the provisions of the Land Act. He at once set' about trying to get this farm back—the farm which Mr. Kingston had had for many years. He approached the United Irish League to help him, and they consented. Shortly after his return a deputation consisting of a Roman Catholic curate and a justice of the peace waited on Mr. Kingston and asked if he would kindly give up his land in order that the late Mr. Denis Murphy's son might get possession. Mr. Kingston made a non-committal offer. He asked if he would get compensation, and was told that he would. Mr. Kingston very prudently wrote to the Estates Commissioners to find out if it was a fact that they were going to give him compensation. They replied, in April, 1910, that they were not going to deal with the matter at all. As a matter of fact I do not think they could deal with it.
Shortly afterwards the United Irish League began to show their hand by establishing a boycott. They prevented Mr. Kingston from selling his produce, and they attempted to prevent him from getting supplies. They attacked his servant man, and threatened that if he continued to serve Mr. Kingston they would kick the heart out of him. An old lady who had the misfortune to take a, small portion of land from Mr. Kingston for the purpose of growing potatoes was boycotted. Mr. Kingston was not able to sell eggs or other produce himself, and he tried to do so through a Protestant neighbour named Cottar, who for entering into this arrangement with him was also boycotted. Cottar was taking milk to the neighbouring creamery and was set upon by other farmers. Having, as they thought, sufficiently cowed Mr. Kingston, they stated 212 that on a certain day the Land Commissioners were coming down to take the land from him and hand it over to Mr. Denis Murphy's son. A large number of people congregated near the farm, and there were thirty police at the place. They held a meeting at a point adjoining Mr. Kingston's house, and for the space of two hours they stood booing and shouting, "Down with the grabber."
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Redmond Barry)
I may state that criminal proceedings have been taken in the very case which is being discussed by the hon. Gentleman. Summonses were issued and were actually to be heard today in connection with a charge of assault. Under these circumstances I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, whether it is in order to discuss the case now?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The matter certainly cannot be discussed if it is sub judice. Very likely the allegations which the hon. Member is making will have a bearing on the case either of the prosecutors or the defendants.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
I am told by a gentleman who is a reliable authority that the persons against whom the summonses were issued in regard to a charge of assault in connection with this case are the persons to whom the hon. Gentleman is referring. I have myself only a general knowledge of the case.
§ Mr. NEWMAN
These are proceedings against certain parties for assault, and have nothing to do with Mr. Kingston at all. Therefore, with your leave I will leave out any mention of Mr. Cotter, and deal with what happened to Mr. Kingston. The crowd blew the horns, and for nearly two hours cried out, "Down with the grabber." Then the parish curate, Father O'Connell, came up on his horse and asked if anyone from the Land Commission had come to the place. He was told no one had, but said that he thought he should address a few words of encouragement to the crowd. Then he addressed these words: "Men, you know our business here to-day is to reinstate Denis Murphy in the home of his late father. He is looking bright and rosy to-day; he will soon be back on his farm, and the grabber and all of his class had better take what they were going to get, and go back to Drimoleague, or wherever they came from; and I do not care where they came from; Home Rule will soon be passed, and then they will have nothing to get."
§ Mr. NEWMAN
Then he told the crowd he had to go away to bury a man, but that they were to keep the horns going, and he would come back later on. The crowd boohed Mr. Kingston for a long time, and frightened his horse and his servants. A few days afterwards the Land Commission actually put in an appearance; a gentleman named Coll called on Mr. Kingston, and stated he had come from the Land Commission office. Ho asked Mr. Kingston if ho would come to terms about his farm, and said that another farm would be given to him at, a place three miles from where I live in the South of Ireland, and about thirty miles from where Mr. Kingston had his farm near Macroom. I may mention that Mr. Kingston's farm is ninety-six acres, while the farm offered to him is only forty-three acres. It may be that the land on the smaller farm is better, but I know the farm very well, and I do not think it is hotter land. Mr. Kingston asked Mr. Coll by what authority he approached him, and said, "For all I know you may be a fraud." Mr. Coll perfectly honestly said he had no authority for the business, but at the same time he took a document from his pocket and showed it as his authority. I do not think the document gave any authority at all. Seeing that ho could not do with Mr. Kingston, Coll then said, "I am no fraud, but as you will not come to terms let time decide," and then of course he went away. Yet three days after this Mr. Coll writes, or causes a letter to be written to Dennis Murphy asking him to come up and see him in Cork. Murphy, after some hesitation, came up and saw Mr. Coll, who offered him this farm of forty-three acres, which had been thought good enough for Mr. Kingston. Murphy indignantly refused to accept it. Obviously this action of Mr. Coll encouraged Murphy to proceed with his boycott, and it has been followed up, and, as far as Mr. Kingston is concerned, has got worse and worse. Mr. Murphy has hired a field close by Kingston's house, which he uses for a football field.
Every Sunday a crowd assembles nominally to play football, but actually to blow horns and shout, "Down with the 214 grabber." On Sunday in the middle of last month Mr. Kingston, who is a Protestant, actually had to be escorted to his place of worship by twenty policemen. On the following Sunday the same thing occurred. He is not able to get any bread brought out in the vans which come from Cork, twenty miles distant, and it is only through the Protestant schoolmaster living some distance away that he is able to get any food at all. There is a certain small Protestant community in that part of the county Cork, and because they have shown sympathy with Kingston, their coreligionist, they too are threatened with the boycott. An attempt has been made to boycott one man because he has lent Kingston a machine to do hoeing. Yesterday the Earl of Midlothian welcomed the backwoodsmen of our Empire. Is it conceivable that anywhere else in our Empire men would require the protection of twenty police in order to go to church, and is it conceivable that a great Department of State like the Irish Land Committee, for which the British taxpayers pay £500,000 a year, should even appear to meddle with a question of this sort, and should even appear to wish to get one man out of his farm and put another man into that farm, when that one man had been there thirty years and actually had bought the farm with the credit of the British Government? I say it is wrong and disgraceful, and I am anxious to know what the Attorney-General shall have to say on the subject.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
I am sorry to say that I have no notice of the intention of the hon. Gentleman to raise this question.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
So far as I am concerned no notice whatever was given to me, and such information as I am able to give the House has been collected in the very short time that the hon. Gentleman has occupied in dealing with this matter. I gather from the observations which he has made that he docs not make any attack at all upon the executive in connection with this matter.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
All I know about it is that proceedings are pending so far as the alleged violence is concerned, and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secre- 215 tary has, in answer to questions within the last eight or ten days repeatedly informed the hon. Gentleman what the situation was in regard to the Estates Commissioners and this farm. What occurred was simply this: Information was conveyed to the Estates Commissioners that this man Kingston desired to surrender his farm for the purpose of enabling it, I suppose, to be given largely to this man Murphy, and anything not given to him to be divided among tenants in the neighbourhood.
§ Mr. REDMOND BARRY
I am not able to tell you. I am dealing with the action of the Estates Commissioners. Having heard this, they put themselves into communication with Mr. Kingston, and being informed that there was no truth in the information conveyed to them, they at once desisted, and have never since interposed in the matter. No one could for a moment dispute that it was perfectly legitimate and fair for them, having got the information, to make inquiry, and being told by Mr. Kingston that he had no intention of quitting the farm, they at once withdrew, and have never since interposed. How, in these circumstances, any person can attempt to challenge their action I fail to understand. That is the situation in relation to the Estates Commissioners, and I certainly must protest that the facts in no way at all warrant any attack upon them. As regards the case generally, the hon. Gentleman may be assured that every protection will be given to Mr. Kingston and to any individual who may require it, and if there are any breaches of the law ample steps will be taken to vindicate the law. They are being taken at the present time, and altogether I fail to understand what is the point of the attack which the hon. Gentleman has been making.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.