§ Mr. GODFREY COLLINS (who wore Court Dress)
I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
The honour has been entrusted to me to move the reply to the Gracious Speech. No one could be more conscious of his own shortcomings in performing this duty than I, but, Sir, having received an early training in the Royal Navy, I obey orders. Only a short experience in the House of Commons is necessary to reveal to each new Member that this House, although the most critical, is yet the most generous Assembly in the world, and I venture to ask for a large share of that latter quality while performing this honourable but difficult task. I am, however, also encouraged by the honour conferred upon the Constituency which I represent, and the West of Scotland, of which it forms a part—that keen, hard-working community where the throb of the piston and the sound of the hammer in the shipyards are heard day and night. The opening sentence in the Gracious Speech touches a sympathetic chord in the heart of the nation. All Members will have read of the enthusiastic welcome accorded fifty years ago to the Princess Alexandra of Denmark on her first arrival in London as the Royal Bride-elect of the then Prince of Wales. Over the long span of intervening years the nation has grown to love her, not only for her gracious self, but also for her deeds of kindness as Princess and Queen, and now, in her abiding sorrow, the sympathy of the nation surrounds and supports the solitary figure of the widowed Queen Mother.
- "Most Gracious Sovereign,
- "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
The gracious Speech reminds us, in a short, but pregnant sentence, that our relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly—a statement fraught with hope to every home in this country. The dominating desire of democracy is freedom from international disputes. Capital and labour are thus diverted from the area and wastage of war, and flow freely into 13 the useful channels of productive enterprise, while progressive legislation, dealing with the problems at home, can only be concentrated upon and passed in times of peace; but, Sir, amid all the changes of the international situation, the grouping and regrouping of Powers, the rise and fall of nation, the ambitions and weaknesses of rulers and statesmen, and the passions and prejudices of peoples, not only has peace been maintained, but our national self-respect and honour have been upheld, without which there can be no enduring peace. We are reminded that some other nations have been less fortunate. In the Near East the stress of conflict and strife of battle have taken the place of the voice of reason and mutual confidence. In these Islands Delegates of the Powers worked together to find a settlement leading to a lasting peace within these troubled areas. Unfortunately the negotiations fell through, and war has been resumed. All parties in this House are anxious to see peace restored on a firm basis. Not only in this country, but throughout the Empire deepest satisfaction prevailed for the tribute paid to our country when London was chosen as the meeting place of the Delegates.
We note with satisfaction that all the Powers not only earnestly desire to circumscribe the area of conflict, but hasten the arrival of peace, and we all rejoice that some considerable measure of success has already been achieved. The difficulty of settling industrial disputes, where the interests of only two parties are concerned, brings home to us the great difficulties which must have arisen when the conflicting interests are so varied and complicated. Before I pass from this subject, perhaps I may be permitted to say, with the concurrence of this House, that the unfailing patience and far-sighted judgment of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs must have contributed in no small degree to such measure of success as has already attended the negotiations of the Representatives of the Great Powers. During this difficult period, may I not add, this House has shown a studied moderation worthy of its best traditions. The Gracious Speech recalls to us the helping hand of our Dominions for naval defence. A well-known writer, who has frequently travelled round the world, once wrote that "whether the wind blew from the North or from the South, from the East or from the West, it brought tidings of deeds of valour and heroism enacted under the British flag"; 14 is it not also true to say that, whether from the North or from the South, from the East or from the West, our Dominions bring substantial tokens of affection and loyalty to the Motherland.
Turning to our Indian Empire, we are reminded of the Commission which is now studying the conditions which should animate and govern the Indian Civil Service. The problem of associating the educated classes of the Indian community with the Government of that great Empire has baffled statesmen in the past owing to the difficulty of grafting Western ideas on to the apparently unchanging East. But, Sir, the successful experience of associating, in some degree, the peoples of India in their legislative and provincial Assemblies, with British rule, encourages us in the hope that the Commissioners may solve the intricate problem, especially when we recall that one of the glories of the British race is their characteristic ability to associate, at the opportune moment, the native peoples of a country with the administration under which they live. Coming to matters at home, this House will note that the Estimates will be laid before it without delay. The House, rightly interpreting the feeling of the whole nation, is always ready to authorise expenditure, not for foreign adventure, but to maintain our Imperial strength and defence of our sea-girt shores and Island home. This country has always had a warm place in its heart for the Naval Service and its long list of heroes, the last of whom formed that gallant band who lost their lives in the Antarctic regions. The burden indeed is heavy—it exacts its toll from the hard-won earnings of capital and labour, but the country has never wavered in making the necessary sacrifices for the maintenance of our Navy at sufficient strength, provided that prudence characterises the demand and economy and efficiency is attained.
Turning to Home Affairs, disagreement still exists between the two Houses in regard to certain Bills. The present position of those Bills, which are to be considered again by Parliament reminds me of a play now being performed in London, well known to every Parliamentarian, which measures progress by three milestones. The first milestone in the career of these Bills has taken long to reach and pass. We start our march towards the second milestone to-day, and perhaps even those who differ from me as to the wisdom of the march may join with me in the hope 15 that it may not take so long to reach. Speaking for myself, I am convinced by the time we reach the third milestone many will wonder why we did not complete the journey long ago.
Included in the Bills to be reconsidered is the Scottish Temperance Bill. Here, Sir, I tread on thin ice, but my fellow-countrymen—dour and determined though they are—have shown remarkable patience in waiting for many years for this Bill to be passed into law, I still hope, with the consent of all parties. The closing passage of the Gracious Speech refers to the English educational system. I do not profess to understand that system, but speaking as a Scotch Member—and in this my fellow Scotch Members will agree with me—I earnestly hope that the proposed changes may make the English educational system more nearly equal to our high standard in Scotland. I thank the House most sincerely for their courtesy and attention. I have endeavoured to avoid a controversial spirit according to the unwritten rules of this House, the traditional honour of which is surely that all business accomplished in this Assembly should bring glory and honour to our King and peace and prosperity to our country.
§ Mr. FRANCIS McLAREN (who also wore Court Dress)
It is with diffidence that I rise to second the Address of thanks to His Majesty for His most Gracious Speech, and indeed I would venture to make a claim for that generous indulgence which the House usually accords to those who have this honourable, though difficult, duty to perform; and indeed, Mr. Speaker, as the youngest and least distinguished Member of this House, I make a special appeal to hon. Members of greater eloquence and Parliamentary experience than myself for a double measure of consideration. The Gracious Speech from the Throne, which hon. Members had the privilege of hearing read by the King himself, moved the House by its reference to Queen Alexandra. I am sure the House welcomes this opportunity of tendering to Her Majesty its respectful congratulations and the assurance of its loyalty and of its devoted affection. We are delighted to be reminded in so happy a way of those days long ago when she came in the spring as a bride to London. Ever since the people have loved her first as Princess and then as Queen; and now, by her care and charity to the unfortunate, she is enshrined even deeper 16 in the hearts of the nation. We were only waiting for an opportunity such as this to show her our sympathy and our respectful love.
The Address I have the honour to second is one of those constitutional links which bind together Sovereign, Lords, and Commons, and it will finally go forth as the unanimous action of the whole House and an expression of loyalty to their Majesties themselves. Indeed, an expression of that loyalty is found in that part of the Gracious Speech which deals with our Overseas Dominions. Reference is made to the visit of the Prime Minister of Canada with his colleagues last year to confer on the subject of Naval Defence, and a Minister from New Zealand is now with us for the same purpose of joint counsel. It is with feelings of gratification that the House will observe this growing desire of our Overseas Dominions to take a greater part in the deliberations of the Committee of Imperial Defence. The House will note with pleasure that the rulers and the people of the Malay States have made the splendid contribution of a first-class armoured cruiser. That generous offer has aroused immense satisfaction throughout the whole of the British Empire, and is a contribution worthy of their loyalty. There is a cordial reference to the "Dreadnought" "New Zealand," which is now on its way to the country whose patriotic gift it was. That battle cruiser will be doubly useful, for the reason that it may not be retained permanently on the China Seas, but will be at the disposal of the Admiralty in the North Sea or in whatsoever tactical theatre it may be of the greatest service to the Empire. With regard to Canada, I think I may, without presumption, voice the feelings of every Member of this House, and say that we appreciate the generous intentions of the Canadian people. I am confident that these new Colonial battleships will be used, not for the making of war, but for the maintenance of peace, and, as a nephew of John Bright, perhaps I may be allowed to quote his words:—The purpose of the Fleet should be one of defence and not of defiance.I pray that may be the part allotted to these new ships, but, at any rate, these contributions of our Empire will show the world that if any other Power were ever to challenge our supremacy on the high seas we should have behind us the whole taxable resources of the British Empire. A moving reference is made in the Gracious 17 Speech to the attempt on the life of the Viceroy of India and the courage which he displayed on that occasion. By the mercy of Providence the attack failed and his life was spared. The indignation that has been expressed in every quarter of India against the outrage has demonstrated the sympathy and loyalty of His Majesty's Indian subjects. Mention, too, is made in the Gracious Speech that the Imperial Exchequer will guarantee a loan for the encouragement of cotton growing in the Soudan. Experiments have abundantly proved that the Soudan is not only the finest cotton growing country in the whole of the British Empire, but, what is more imoprtant, that it can grow that sort of cotton Lancashire requires. This is a subject of vital importance to the textile North, and it is essential that the millions engaged in and dependent on the cotton industry should no longer be at the mercy of bad seasons in India or North America. If the shortage of raw material is to be provided Lancashire must be placed above the hazards of speculation and of climate. This loan will develop the resources of the Soudan under British guidance in a way which will ensure the more permanent prosperity of the cotton industry. I am sure the House will welcome this evidence of cordial co-operation between the Government and the commercial community.
Turning our attention homewards, His Majesty tells us that a measure will shortly be introduced for the abolition of plural voting. I venture to hope that measure will no longer be regarded as controversial. That hope at first sight might appear illusory, but I found myself on the ground that when in 1888 by the County Councils Act the Conservative party made their great extension of local government this principle was embodied in their measure. Further, the House will remember that when the question of a Referendum was discussed it was unanimously acknowledged that wealth ought to confer no additional voting power, but that every citizen should vote once and once only. I venture to express the hope as a private Member that the Government will proceed with their plans for the simplification of the register and the cheapening of registration; and I also trust that by common consent an agreement may be come to for the more equitable redistribution of electoral areas based, of course, not on grounds of party advantage, but on distribution of population.
18 Mention is made in the Gracious Speech that certain measures failed to become law owing to an unfortunate disagreement between the two Houses. A measure which occupied the greater part of Parliamentary time and which has absorbed so much of public interest will be reintroduced in the forthcoming Session. I do not know whether the House would wish again to hear the 6,000 columns of the OFFICIAL REPORT that were delivered on the Home Rule Bill or to take a part in a further 231 Divisions, but for my part I venture to express the hope, not only on grounds of self-defence but in view of the general desire for a shorter Parliamentary Session, that the House may adopt some proposal for their curtailment of discussion. If such a proceeding should appeal to the House, while it would be of advantage to the House, it would be of no disadvantage to the measures themselves, for the reason that the abrupt action of another place has deprived us here of the opportunity of knowing what improvements they might consider advantageous. I am most anxious not to break the immemorial custom that on these occasions all controversy should be avoided, but it is not easy to deal with these controversial questions in a non-controversial spirit. Perhaps in one respect I am more fortunate than the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Sir H. Verney), who moved the Address last year, in that, whereas on that occasion the reference to Home Rule was only acceptable to Members on this side of the House and Members of the Nationalist party, now the information we are given that Parliament is to complete the work of Irish Land Purchase will give pleasure in every quarter of the House, and the reference which is made to Home Rule in the Speech will now be welcome even by a majority of the Members from Ulster itself.
It would be presumptions of me to express the opinions held on this side of the House, but it seems to me that just as in the case of Ireland so with regard to Wales the Government is not only justified, but bound to resubmit their Welsh Church Bill, for the Parliamentary representatives from Wales will tell us in a majority of ten to one that their constituents demand the reintroduction of this measure. Indeed, nothing is more striking than the emphatic and overwhelming way in which the Welsh and Irish people have reiterated their demand for generations. Another subject of very great 19 importance, His Majesty tells us, will be dealt with in the coming Session, and the House will be glad to hear that our efforts last Session to carry out the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Feeble-Minded, will not be wasted. That decision will give pleasure in every quarter of the House with a few exceptions, and I am delighted that Parliament is to devote its attention to the distressing case of the mentally deficient. This is not a party question but a National question. We, on this side of the House, have the happy experience—as in the case of the White Slave Traffic Bill of the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee)—how effectively both sides of this House can co-operate, and I venture to think when the House acts as a whole its credit and authority with the country is at its highest. It only remains for me to thank hon. Members for the patient way in which they have listened to me, and, trusting that I have not unduly trespassed on the time of the House, I beg to second the Address.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It required the ceremonial that is usual on these occasions, and of which some of us were witnesses this afternoon, to enable us to realise that we are really beginning to-day the business of a new Session. The interval has perhaps been long enough to give some of us physical rest, but it has not been long enough to give us mental rest. That is bad, I think, for all the Members of the House of Commons. It is bad even for the Opposition, whose duty is to criticise. But it is far worse for the Government, which has to carry on the business of the country, and for the great body of permanent officials on whom every Government depends. They have had, and could have, no time for reflection or consideration. They come back to the new Session, unless the right hon. Gentlemen whom I see before me are more than human, with exhausted and jaded minds; and among the many other evils of the method which the Government have thought it necessary to adopt in the conduct of business, this, I think, is one of the greatest and the most serious for the Government. I listened with real pleasure to the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Address. It is customary under any circumstances—it is one of our unwritten traditions—that the Leader of 20 the Opposition should praise those speeches. I am glad again this year to be able to do it without any arrière pensée, and to say—and I believe every Member of the House will agree with me—that we have listened with satisfaction to the way in which those speeches have been made. As both hon. Gentlemen pointed out, it is not an easy task. Their duty, in the first place, is to be not too controversial, a duty which both of them fulfilled; and, in the second place, to try to make their speeches interesting; and I think we may say that that has been done, as far as it was possible under such circumstances.
The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address reminded us that he had served in His Majesty's Navy, and he said that there he had learned to obey. I venture to say that from that point of view the training of the last two years, under the successive Whips of the Government, has been much more effective than any which he received in the Navy. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address won, I think, the sympathy of every Member of the House by his ingenuousness and hopefulness. Some of the hopes which he gave utterance to will not I fear stand the stress of time, and I am afraid I cannot join with him in that hopefulness. But one thing he did mention, and which, indeed, I already knew, is I am sure of interest to the House. Last year the Address was seconded by an hon. Member who was the grandson of one of the greatest Parliamentarians who ever took his place in the House of Commons. The hon. Member has told us that he is the nephew of a Member of this House who was I think the greatest orator of his day, and of whom, so far as my experience goes at least, I can say this, that his are almost the only speeches of the old days which it is still possible for the modern politician to read with interest. Now I join with both hon. Gentlemen in the allusions which they have made to the jubilee of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Alexandra. The sentence in which that reference is made in the Speech from the Throne is so direct and simple that I think it must touch the heart of every one who reads it, and I shall certainly say nothing, for anything I could say would only deduct from the impressiveness of the way in which that sympathy is expressed on behalf of the House of Commons. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address spoke of the subject of Foreign Affairs, and in everything he said I think we on 21 this side of the House, indeed all Members of the House, will agree.
The Speech has a longer reference to Foreign Affairs than has been usual of recent years. That is, of course, inevitable. But, though there are a great many sentences, I think the Prime Minister will agree we do not get much information. I hope, therefore, it may be possible for him, without detriment to the public service, to give some further information to the House as to the events connected with the Near East. I am sure, in any case, all Members of the House would especially welcome, if it were possible, some assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the war now going on is likely to be speedily determined. War is always, I think, a calamity, though very often an unavoidable calamity. But it seems to me that this war is specially deplorable for this reason, because, so far as I can judge, although I have no special means of information, the result of this war can have no appreciable effect upon the terms of settlement when the time of peace comes. I hope, therefore, and I am sure the whole House hopes, that the time is not far distant when peace will be restored to those regions. There are some other points in connection with foreign affairs on which I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us some further information. The House will remember that on the present. Foreign Secretary undertaking his office, a fear was expressed that a Foreign Secretary in the House of Commons might be found to have a difficult and practically impossible position on account of the facility with which he might be bombarded on the floor of the House. We all know that no Foreign Secretary who has ever held office in this country has ever had a freer hand, or has ever been subjected to less criticism from the Opposition, than has been the case with the present Foreign Secretary. That was, of course, a deliberate policy, consistently carried out by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour), and I have only been too glad during the short time in which I have filled his post to follow his example in that respect. I feel sure, however, that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government will realise that that is no reason why any information which could be given ought not to be given to the House of Commons. Take, for instance, events in Tripoli. That is now over. No Papers have been laid before the House, and I think it would be desirable, if possible, that the House should have some 22 information as to what occurred at that time and our connection with it.
The House also, I am sure, is very anxious about the position in Persia. That is not, like the last subject to which I referred, a question which is not any longer a live one, and it is very likely that reticence may be not only desirable but necessary. It is a long time since we had information on the subject, and I am sure the House will desire to know what the position in Southern Persia especially is, and what is the position now of the Indian regiments, which, the House will remember, went there and were cooped up in peculiar circumstances. Indeed, the position there is so grave that I am quite sure that any information which the Government can give will be gladly welcomed by the House of Commons. The next subject referred to by the hon. Gentleman who spoke was the assistance of the Oversea Dominions in the defence of the Empire. What was said by them I am sure the House, or almost the whole House, is ill entire agreement, and I have nothing to add to it except perhaps to repeat what I said once before in a speech in the House of Commons, that in my opinion one good out of the evil of the constant increase of armaments throughout the world, one advantage, is that the pressure from the outside is tending to weld the British Empire more closely together. That has been the result, and everyone in this House and in this country must rejoice in the knowledge that the Dominions of the Crown, with so much alacrity, have shown themselves ready to share in the burdens of defence. I venture to hope that the movement towards closer union which has come as a result of consulting them about defence will in many ways and with the utmost rapidity go further and come to a still closer union than that which has existed in the past. Though the Government speak of the assistance of the Dominions towards our defence, I was surprised not to find in the Speech any reference to what the Government themselves are doing in the same direction. I think that was surprising. The conditions are not what we should like to see them abroad, and I do not think there is any Member on that bench, and least of all the Secretary of State for War, who is satisfied with the condition of our land forces, and I think it would have been a good thing if there had been some reference in the Speech to show that the Government do realise what 23 the position is and are ready to face the difficulty and overcome the difficulty.
That brings me to the interesting way in which the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address told us that the Estimates would soon be laid before us. They will. And I should like to ask the Prime Minister to tell us exactly in what way the necessary financial provisions are going to he carried out. The time is short, and I should like to know whether, when the Address has been voted, the whole of our time is to be taken for the Government, and whether a Guillotine Resolution or something of that kind will be necessary to get through the financial business. I need not say that we recognise that the law must be complied with, and that no effort on this side of the House will be made to prevent the necessary business being carried through, but at the same time, as the result of the pressure which was put upon us last Session and the delay in our reassembling it is perfectly evident that it is impossible that there can be any adequate discussion before the end of the financial year of the great problems which arise in connection with these Estimates. Certainly there never was a time in the memory of any Member of this House when it was more necessary that there should be a complete and careful examination of our defences by sea, on land, and, not least important, in the air, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman himself will recognise that the time before the end of the financial year is not adequate and that other opportunities must be given us later on to adequately discuss those great subjects. Now before I come to the legislation which is proposed, I notice a reference in the Speech to the continued prosperity of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I see my reading of it is not inaccurate, and I regard it as a challenge against any change in our fiscal system. If that is the intention of the Speech, which is doubtful; if it is the view of the hon. Members of the House, I think I may be excused if I put before them some general considerations which should be taken into account in regard to that matter. There is great prosperity, everyone admits it, greater than has existed in this country for many years, and greater, I am afraid, than we can hope will last for many years. But that prosperity is not confined to this country. It is world-wide, 24 and judged by any test which it is possible for me to apply to it, or for anyone to apply to it, our share in that world-wide prosperity is not greater, but, on the contrary, is less than that which is enjoyed by other countries. I do not think that is disputable. Take for instance the point referred to in the Speech, our statistics of trade. Judging by that test, there was a great increase last year, both in our imports and exports, but taking the imports of domestic produce, it will be found that the increase in Germany, and, I believe in the United States, although I am not sure of that, but the increase in Germany was greater, not only in percentage, but in actual volume than the increase in the United Kingdom. The Board of Trade statistics deal only with foreign trade, and that is always, in every country, much less important than the home trade. The best test of growth therefore is the growth of our total production. Of this there are very few means of getting any information, but there is one, and that is in connection with the iron trade. What do we find in regard to that? I find—these are the only figures I have looked into to-day in connection with the King's Speech—that in 1905, the year when the present Government came into office, our production of raw iron, which is, of course, the test of the whole of the iron trade, was 9.6 million tons. In 1911–I believe the figures are out for last year, but I have not seen them—it was stationary 9.5. On the other hand, in Germany in the first year the production was 10.7 million tons, and in the last year it had risen to 15.3 million tons, that is to say, while our production had been stationary, that of Germany had increased by nearly 50 per cent. If you take any other test you will find precisely the same thing. Unemployment is low as shown by our statistics published by the Board of Trade, but it is higher than it is in Germany under similar conditions.
There is another factor I would ask hon. Members to bear in mind in this connection, that is the factor of emigration. Thirty years ago or thereabouts, there was very heavy emigration from Germany; to-day there is none. From the United Kingdom emigration is now going on at a higher rate than almost ever before, and during the seven years that this Government have been in office, a million and a half of our people have left our shores to seek employment elsewhere. I ask hon. 25 Gentlemen to put to themselves this question: what would have been the state of employment here if the outlet for this surplus population had not been available in other parts of the world? I will not go in that subject at any length, but I would remind them of another thing. There has been, as we all know, a great rise in the cost of living. That is universal; it applies to the whole world. But there is something which does not apply to the rest of the world, that is wages. During the last twelve years there has been almost no increase—there was none at all until two years ago—in wages in this country, and it is therefore a simple fact to say that our wage-earning classes, taking the rate of wages in combination with the cost of necessaries, are not as well off as they were twelve years ago. I venture to say—I have made some examination into it, although not to-day—that the same statement could not be made with truth of Germany, of France, of the United States, or of any one of our Colonies. In every one of them there has been a rise in wages at least commensurate with the increased cost of living. I think, therefore, it is very rash to conclude that because we still have a share, and a large share, of the growing trade of the world, that when our share to-day is smaller than that of other countries with a different system, therefore it is our fiscal system which is responsible for securing that share.
Now I come to the legislation which is promised us for the present Session. There is to be a Bill to facilitate and complete land purchase. The hon. Member who seconded the Address is quite right in saying that this is a change or a proposal which will be welcomed at all events by those on this side of the House. I agree, indeed, with the Chief Secretary who told us, at least I think so—whether I am right or not, it is true—he told us I think that the completion of land purchase is far more important for Ireland than Home Rule. It undoubtedly is. Now that the Nationalist party, as we judge from the sentence in the King's Speech, is ready to facilitate land purchase, the difficulty is not legislative but financial. All that. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to do is to give us, if he can, in outline, some idea of the steps which are to be taken in order to carry out this very desirable object. One of the hon. Members, I forget which, referred to the proposal to guarantee a loan for cotton-growing in the Soudan. I have certainly no criticism to offer on that 26 proposal, though I should like a little more information about it. The difficulty here, of course, is also financial. There is not much difference between guaranteeing a loan and lending the money, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer will realise. In this case there is not only the object which we all desire to see carried out, if it can be done, of developing the Soudan, but, as the hon. Member who spoke last pointed out, if this experiment succeeds it is of direct advantage to the United Kingdom itself, for certainly, in my opinion, the great cotton industry, the greatest industry by far in this country, can never be in the position in which we should like to see it so long as it is dependent entirely, or almost entirely, for its supplies of raw material on foreign countries. I therefore welcome this proposal, but I hope that before long the Government will tell us exactly what the extent of it is, what is to be the amount of the loan, and what is the extent of the growth of cotton that we may anticipate as the result of this scheme. We all approve of this proposal, but while it is very desirable to develop production in the Soudan, and indirectly to help a great industry in this country, it is desirable also to develop production, in the United Kingdom. Therefore I hope that the Government, with their interest in the Soudan, will not forget the United Kingdom. There is one industry to which I attach a great and perhaps, though I do not think so, an exaggerated importance, that is the beet sugar industry. I have thought for a long time that the Government of this country ought long ago to have done something to try to establish that industry. I remember that the Prime Minister, on the occasion of a Debate in connection with the Sugar Convention, expressed his sympathy with this object. I think it is precisely the kind of industry which is now necessary in this country, and I hope the Government will tell us that they are prepared to do something to help in establishing this industry in the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address told us that we were to have a Plural Voting Bill, and he ventured to express the hope, on very inadequate reasons as it seemed to me, that it would be regarded as non-controversial. It is a very old friend. I am not going to waste much time in talking about it now. We all understand it. The Government say that plural voting is an anomaly. That may be so, but it is not the only anomaly. It is not even the chief 27 anomaly, even by their own admission, for I remember on the occasion of the withdrawal of the Suffrage Bill, at the end of last Session, that the Prime Minister said Redistribution was even more important than that Bill. This is an anomaly, as they think, which is against the interests of the Radical party. They immediately propose to remove that anomaly, but do not dream for a moment of touching other anomalies which may possibly be found to be in the interests of the Radical party. They will try to carry it. We shall try to oppose it, and it is a good distance yet from becoming the law of the land. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Address spoke of the Education Bill. He began with a sentence in which he said he did not understand the education system of England. I hoped he was going to explain that he understood the proposals of His Majesty's Government. That is, for the moment, a much more interesting conundrum to me. What are these proposals? I suppose they are part of what was described as a colossal scheme, alluded to by the Lord Chancellor in a recent speech. In the Speech from the Throne we are told:Proposals will be submitted to you for the development of a national system of education.That language is quite as vague and is almost as high flown as the speech of the Lord Chancellor in which he referred to the subject. What does it mean? When I read the speech of the Lord Chancellor I thought it looked as if a friendly duel were going on between him and the other Chancellor to see whether land or education should be the first great work of the Government. Judging by the King's Speech, the Chancellor in another place has won, for there is a reference to education here, and there is none to the land proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. But I do not think we should draw inferences too hastily. The Chancellor we have in this House is pretty determined, and will not easily be beaten by a colleague. I think, perhaps, there is an explanation. It is possible—I hope it is the case—that the education proposals are intended to benefit education. I have no doubt the Chancellor of the Exchequer means his land proposals to benefit the people on the land, but that is not his only object. His other object is, I have no doubt, to get a good cry before the next election, and from that point of view it is not desirable that 28 it should be tabled too soon. There might be examination; there might be criticism; and it is probable, therefore, that the victory of the Chancellor in another place is more apparent than real. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last referred to the Bill for the Feeble-Minded. Here it is: "Proposals for the carrying out of a Bill for the Feeble-Minded and a Bill for limiting further the use of children in industrial life." That is the contribution which, under the Parliament Act, the Government are able to make to the cause of social reform. That is the whole of it. There is no reference to housing, which is admittedly not only one of the subjects which ought to be dealt with, but a subject on which there is so much general agreement throughout the country that an attempt to deal with it on sane lines could be made without arousing any of the bitterness of party controversy. There is another omission which seems to me stranger. In my view the real problems with which statesmen, not only in this country, but in other countries as well, will have to face in the near future are labour problems. This Government has had its full share of labour unrest and the troubles arising from labour unrest. We have been saved, and I am sure everyone is thankful, from what looked like another outbreak of it the other day. On the occasion of the last strike—the dock strike—the Government were asked to interfere in it. They did not, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as representing the Government, came down to us and said, We are going to deal with the whole subject, and, more than that—I wrote down his words this morning—The Government have come to the conclusion that it will be necessary to deal with the whole problem and to deal with it in the immediate future.What has become of that? Problems of that kind can find no place and find neither time nor energy from the Government, which can only use its Parliament Act for purposes which, I believe, are destructive. It can find no time to deal with those great questions which ought to be dealt with and which benefit the whole people of this country.
That brings me, in conclusion, to the final legislative proposal of the Government. It is put in a very modest paragraph:—The attention of Parliament will again be asked to the measures in regard to which there was disagreement between the two Houses.29 In this connection what seems to me most remarkable in the King's Speech is not what it contains, but what it omits. There is, again, no reference to that obligation, which does not brook delay, of carrying out the Preamble of the Parliament Act, and by not including it in the programme of this Session the Government have openly abandoned the only argument on which they excuse their delay in not dealing with it simultaneously with the relations between the two Houses. They told us then that they could not deal with reform of the Second Chamber till they had obtained the lever which the Parliament Act would give them. Now, what do they do? They have given up the lever. Even if they introduce a Bill next year, they cannot use the Parliament Act to carry it through, because there is no time before another election. [Interruption.] I see now that when it suits them hon. Gentlemen are willing to admit that the Parliament Act will work after another election, but when we pointed out to them that that is a reason, before making some of the great proposals which they are making, to submit them to an election, they laughed the idea to scorn. I say, therefore, that by postponing this for another Session, if it ever comes, the Government are practically telling us that they have no intention of seriously carrying out that proposal. The Bill on which they went to the country and won the election contains just as definitely the determination to deal with this subject as to deal with the relations between the two Houses. They won votes from men who do not believe in Single-Chamber government by holding out the belief that there would not be Single-Chamber government, and now they are attempting to carry through their proposals, which, if there ever is to be a Second Chamber, should be applied to them, without carrying out the pledge which they gave at the election.
We have had experience of one Session—and I think it is enough—of the Parliament Act. I do not believe there is any Member of this House, in whatever quarter he sits, who is satisfied with the result of that experience. It has not only destroyed absolutely the Second Chamber—of course, that was intended—but it has done something more. It has, for the time being, just as effectively destroyed the House of Commons as the House of Lords. The whole of our business last Session was carried on under conditions of stress such as are impossible to human 30 endurance, and under conditions which, at the time the Parliament Bill was going through, the Prime Minister told us explicitly the Government would not adopt in connection with that measure. Practically the whole of our business was done under the guillotine, and everyone knows that once the guillotine is set up, interest in debate largely dies away, and it is not too much to say that during last Session there has been less interest in Debates in this House, and less interest taken in the House of Commons outside, than has ever been the experience of any man who is sitting here. The result of the Parliament Act has been to concentrate all power absolutely in the hands of one despotic body—the Cabinet of the day. They are not only the Executive Government, but they are the legislative body as well, and the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address was perfectly justified when he said he would like still further to see debate curtailed. Why not? Why have any debate when the whole principle on which business was carried out last Session was that the Cabinet would make up their mind and decide on the legislation, and that we were to register their decrees whatever they might be?
That has been the result of the Parliament Act in its first Session. What is it going to be in the second? It is quite possible—I think more than probable—that the Government will keep together their majority in this House in order to carry these Bills through the House of Commons a second time. I think that is more than probable. But what has happened? The Parliament Act, as we all know, was adopted for one purpose only—to carry Home Rule—and as soon as that is out of the way the Government, I dare-say, will begin considering reform of the Second Chamber. It was carried with that object alone. How is Home Rule going to be carried? I have no doubt there will be an Amendment on this subject to the Address when we can go into it more in detail, but I would remind the House of this now, that all the time that we have been debating, with little interest in this House and no interest, outside it, the question of Home Rule—while all that was a sham, something real was happening elsewhere. The opposition to this Bill, as everyone who has any knowledge of the facts knows, is steadily hardening in the North-East of Ireland, and not merely is the opposition to it hardening, but the 31 determination to resist it and the organisation of the means by which it will be resisted. That is a fact. What are the Government going to do? They are attempting to do something which certainly was never attempted in any country by any Government in the world. In the name of self-government, above all things, they are going to force upon a great homogeneous community local autonomy by the sword, for it can be enforced in no other way. Is that possible? And they are going to try to force it when, as we believe, the majority of the people of this country are against them. I admit we have no proof of that, but we know that the Government are doing it without having obtained the sanction of the people of this country. Of that there is no doubt. I do not believe that the Government, will really go that length. If they do, they are drifting to a disaster the magnitude of which no one can exaggerate.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
There is one point on which I am glad to find myself—I hope I shall develop more than one—in hearty agreement with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and that is in the graceful, but I think, not exaggerated tribute which he paid to the admirable manner in which my two hon. Friends behind me discharged their peculiarly difficulty and responsible duty. The Mover of the Address showed not only discretion in his selection of topics, but singular felicity in the manner in which he handled them, and my hon. Friend the Seconder did not need the apology which he made for himself on the ground that he was the youngest Member upon this side of the House. He has in him more than one strain of old Parliamentary blood, and he showed himself, as we shall all agree, worthy to maintain and continue the traditions which he has been fortunate enough to inherit. Nothing could have been better than the manner in which my two hon. Friends referred to the topic which comes in the forefront of the Gracious Speech from the Throne and which strikes a note which will find an echo, not only within the walls of Parliament but throughout the length and breadth of the country. The function of Royalty in these days, in constitutional countries such as ours, is a singularly onerous one. As we shall all agree, it has never been discharged with more perfect constitutional propriety or in a manner which has endeared the occupants of the 32 Throne more closely to the hearts and affections of the great mass of the people than by our beloved Queen Alexandra. Some of us—and I am one of them—are old enough to remember the day fifty years ago when Her marriage to the late King Edward took place. One of the most vivid reminiscences of my boyhood, not in London, but a more remote part of the country, is the universal expectations and hopes which were entertained by all classes of the people as to the results of the union which opened under such auspicious circumstances. These expectations have been more than realised during the last fifty years, and the House of Commons as the mouthpiece of the country tenders to Her Majesty to-day its most respectful homage and affection.
The right hon. Gentleman referred in language and in a tone of which I can make no complaint to the references in the Speech to foreign affairs, and in particular to the problems which have arisen from the war in the near East, and he invited me, as he was well entitled to do, to speak with a little more explicitness than is possible in the more or less formal phraseology of the Speech from the Throne as to the past course and the present condition of our dealings with these affairs. The House will understand that even now I am obliged to use, to a certain extent, language of reserve, but so far as it is possible to do so, consistently with the great interests which are still more or less hanging in the balance, I will speak with the utmost candour and freedom. So far as the Great Powers are concerned, when the war broke out they found themselves compelled to deal with it as it affected the system, the creation and maintenance of which they were all parties to—the European system founded by the Treaty of Berlin, and except in so far as the war affects that system the Great Powers as such were not directly interested in it. But the deliberations which have been going on between the Ambassadors here in London, under the Presidency of my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, have been mainly, if not, I believe, exclusively, directed to these considerations. I am glad to say that as the result of these deliberations, though they have not yet reached their final stage, is, that an agreement has been reached in regard to two vitally important points. The first is as regards the Adriatic littoral and the Servian economic 33 access to it by an international railway. That may now be regarded as a settled matter.
The next matter is—and this has proved in practice to be a more thorny question—as regards not the principle, but the delimitation of the boundaries of an autonomous Albania under European guarantee. In principle I am glad to say the Powers are unanimous in accepting that autonomous Albania so guaranteed. As regards the Western boundary, which is the Adriatic littoral, of course no difficulty arises, but as regards the Northern, Eastern and Southern frontiers of the new autonomous Albania, discussions have made it clear that agreement on only one or two more points, and those not the most vital, is required in order to secure the complete concord of the Great Powers. It is true that agreement on the points that have been settled is necessarily and properly conditional on agreement on the whole, but it is substantially true that the points which still remain are few, and in our view, and, I believe, in the view of the Great Powers, cannot be regarded as in any way vital. Therefore, I think the House will agree with me that considerable success has attended the method of joint deliberation. I now turn to another aspect of the matter which affects the belligerents themselves. Turkey has agreed to accept the mediation of the six Powers, and we are at present waiting to hear, and I earnestly trust and hope we may receive, a favourable answer from the Allies whether they are prepared to do the same. A further matter which arose in an acute form at a comparatively late stage in the recent negotiations was the relative position and claims of Roumania and Bulgaria, and I am happy to say that there also both of these States are in process of availing themselves of the mediation of the Great Powers to overcome the differences between them.
Our own part, the part of Great Britain, in all these matters, from the beginning up to the present moment, has been, and will continue to be to the end, to work for peace and agreement. The diplomatic grouping of the Powers has remained unaltered. Neither with France nor Russia are our relations less cordial or intimate than they were before. We retain, and intend to retain, these friendships. The change that has taken place, so far as there has been a change, is this: While each group, if I may use the phrase, remains unimpaired in relation to 34 its own members, the relations between the groups themselves have become increasingly cordial. Those Powers whose interests—and I include ourselves among them—are less directly affected by changes in the Near East have co-operated earnestly to find a path of agreement for all. That has been the outstanding feature, and it is a very agreeable one, in recent diplomatic history. In this matter we have worked with a single-minded desire with Germany. That co-operation has not only made the course of diplomacy, if I may use the expression, more pleasant, but it has, we trust and believe, inspired a mutual confidence which will continue between the two great nations. In the opinion of His Majesty's Government, all this has been greatly faciliated by the meetings of the Ambassadors in London, and I perhaps may be allowed to join in the tribute paid by one of my hon. Friends, which I am sure would not be dissented from by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to the extraordinary, I might almost say unexampled, patience, resolution, determination, and sagacity of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We have regarded these meetings of the Ambassadors in London as a mark of confidence on the part of the other Governments, and we have endeavoured to respond to the best of our power to the responsible trust placed in us. That confidence has been amply justified by the loyal and conciliatory spirit shown by the distinguished representatives of those Great Powers in all the matters with which they have had to deal. I think that is as much as I can properly say at this moment with regard to our foreign policy.
As regards Tripoli, the right hon. Gentleman, I think, suggested that we should produce Papers. Perhaps he will allow me to give a little further consideration to that matter before I make a definite answer. In regard to Persia, there was, as the House may remember, a short Debate some few weeks ago, and in regard to that question another Blue Book will be presented in the course of the next few weeks, which will show the present aspect of matters there. For the moment, in view of the situation in Southern Persia, I would rather not say more than that the Government are fully alive to the many difficulties of the questions which present themselves in this quarter. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a paragraph in the Speech in which His Majesty hails the 35 co-operation of our Great Dominions in the work of common Imperial Defence, and I entirely agree with him that, whatever we may think as outsiders of the increase of armaments which has taken place, and is taking place, in the other countries of the world, yet from our own Imperial point of view there can be no doubt that it has had, I will not say a compensating effect, but has tended to weld together and consolidate the feeling in all parts of the Empire that we must act together as one united body for the preservation of those interests in which not only the Mother-country but all the outlying parts of the Empire are equally concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman, I will not say complained, but referred to the fact that no mention was made in the Gracious Speech as to what we were doing, or intended to do, ourselves. It would, I think, be entirely contrary to precedent for any such statement to be made in that particular manner, but when my two right hon. Friends come, as they will in the course of a few days, to present the Army and Navy Estimates for the consideration of the House for the coming year, the House will receive the fullest and most explicit information on that subject as to the intentions and plans of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the time to be given to the consideration of these Estimates. It will be necessary, I am afraid, in order to comply with the law to follow the precedents set up on previous occasions—the last occasion, I think, was in the last Session of the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member in 1905–and by Resolution to expedite the proceedings so that the necessary Votes may be taken, and the Consolidated Fund Bill passed before the expiration of the financial year; but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House if it is necessary in order to comply with the law to seem to hurry these really preliminary stages of the discussion, that will not be at the expense of the time which the House will reasonably require, and will be given afterwards, for the discussion of the proposals of the Government in all necessary details.
The right hon. Gentleman fell foul of what I would have thought the most innocent passage that possibly could have been put into the Speech, because it is the mere enunciation of a platitude in the Gracious 36 Speech to the effect that the Estimates, whatever their size, may be the more acceptable because the country was enjoying practically in all classes and trades a period of very unusual prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman saw the cloven hoof in the passage, and he seems to think that a challenge is thrown out to those who question the wisdom and appropriateness of our existing fiscal system. I do not know, I am sure, at this moment what precise fiscal system it is proposed to substitute for that which at present prevails. I look for my latest information on the subject to the newspapers to-day. I find that a by-election is taking place. By-elections have their use as indications of public opinion, and they are often misinterpreted. I find that a by-election is going on in Westmorland, and that the selected candidate of the party opposite has declared himself a strong Free Trader and in favour of the maintenance of this fiscal system from which we are supposed to be suffering, and also I think he is in favour of the Insurance Act [HON. MEMBERS: "And Home Rule."] He seems to be a gentleman of broad mind because he is also in favour of a settlement of Home Rule by agreement. I really think in those circumstances I may be excused at this moment, at any rate until some Amendment is taken which states in explicit and definite terms what is the rival fiscal system, the alternative fiscal policy which is to be commended to the country by the united authority of the Opposition, from making any further reference to this portion of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. I will, however, take note in passing that I listened with some astonishment to one remark—a remark with which I entirely agree, for I have been making it myself for the last ten years—namely, that you ought to judge of the prosperity of the country and the real position of its trade by looking at its home production, looking to the home market and not merely to its foreign market, because I do remember a time, though memories are very short of course in these days, when the most distinguished representative of the only alternative fiscal policy with which I am acquainted declared that exports were the real test, and that by the growth or diminution of exports you were to judge whether or not your trade was in a progressive or a stagnant condition. That is, at any rate, one of the theories which we now find repudiated on authority.
37 I now come to the right hon. Gentleman's remark on the programme of legislation, the very modest one which is outlined in the Speech from the Throne. He did not refer to the statement which was there made of the grounds for asking Parliament to undertake so comparatively light a task, for they are grounds which I believe commend themselves to the reason and judgment of the vast majority of the House of Commons in whatever quarter they sit, namely, that after the arduous labours of the Session, prolonged to something like thirteen months, we really could not with any due regard, I will not say to the convenience of Members of the House of Commons, but to the best interests of the public service, offer a programme of legislation to Parliament which would involve the strenuous labours of another autumn Session. And if there are things omitted, as I believe there are, from the programme of legislation outlined in the speech, to which the Government attach the greatest importance, it is for that reason, and no other, that the omission has taken place. I will deal with it very rapidly. Let me say, first, that I do not think it would be convenient, and in accordance with precedent, to make this the occasion for, even in the most general language, indicating what are going to be the provisions of the various Bills which are promised in the Speech, such as the Irish Land Purchase Bill or even the Bill for guaranteeing a loan for the Soudan, though I may say in regard to that that the maximum amount which it is proposed you will be asked to guarantee is £3,000,000. Of course, it is not proposed that these £3,000,000 will be advanced immediately, but only by instalments when required, and I do not believe that this is a guarantee that will throw any real liability of any sort or kind upon the English taxpayer, because I believe that the resources of the Soudan and the prospects of this particular development afford ample security for the repayment of the loan.
With regard to Plural Voting, the right hon. Gentleman asked us why select plural voting and plural voting alone among the various electoral anomalies which exist, particularly during the present year, and he referred to a statement of mine to which I entirely adhere, that redistribution is a matter of equal importance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Greater."] Did I say greater? Let it be which you please; I do not mind. 38 Redistribution, however, is a very complex and difficult matter, and a matter which I hope will be settled by general agreement, and it is a matter which has been simplified to some extent, at any rate, or it will be simplified, if the Irish Government Bill passes. One of the great obstacles to redistribution which have hitherto stood in the path of a fair and equitable system of redistribution has been the problem presented by Ireland. That was the only passage of his speech in which the right hon. Gentleman departed from the spirit of urbanity which I am glad to recognise if I do not always experience it. He suggested, as a plausible explanation of the course taken by the Government, that we were acting from party motives; that plural voting would take from the owners of property, whereas redistribution simply would not. There I entirely differ from him. Regarding the thing from the point of view of party interest and party expediency, I do not believe that any body of men suffers so much as we do from the present system of distribution of seats. I see no reason myself why we should not be able eventually before this Parliament is over to come to a settlement by general agreement.
I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman in the language which he used in reference to education. He is quite welcome to indulge in his fancy picture of an imaginary conflict between my two right hon. Friends who hold different Chancellorships in the Government, and to draw the conclusions which he has drawn, that while temporary victory may go to one, the permanent victory may possibly go to the other. I know nothing of that. All I know is—and I am sure that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lloyd George) beside me will agree with me—that nobody is more heartily in sympathy than he with the proposals in regard to education. Then came the sting of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He asked us why we have omitted certain things from our programme. With regard to labour, he quoted an assurance given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I well remember and to which I entirely subscribe. But surely he must know that legislation to be successful, prudently framed, and likely to attain its result, having regard to these delicate matters, requires infinite care and deliberation. [Laughter.] I do not know why that should be a matter for laughter. The right hon. Gentleman may have some specific in his pocket which he is capable 39 of producing. If he will do so, no one will be more grateful than His Majesty's Government. We did as we said we should do. We sent one of our ablest permanent officials—Sir George Askwith—to Canada. He made a most exhaustive examination and very valuable report upon the operation of the Act which is in operation in that Dominion. The result is both negative and positive; but further investigations of the same kind have to be made and continued, and nothing can be more prejudicial to the right settlement of these delicate and difficult problems than premature and half-thought-out proposals in matters so vitally affecting all the best interests of the country, and it is for that reason, and not because we do not regard these matters as urgent and important, that we are not prepared at this moment to submit legislative proposals.
I now come to what the right hon. Gentleman regards as the most formidable indictment. He asks, What becomes of the Preamble to the Parliament Act? Why are there no proposals of the kind in the King's Speech? And if they are not found in the King's Speech this year, is it not the clearest evidence of the fact that none are really intended at all? I wonder how many people who talk about the Preamble to the Parliament Act have ever read it? I am going to read it to the House, and I do not think that there is anything in our Statute Book which is so badly remembered and so little understood, although it is an Act which is perfectly plain. It reads:—Whereas it is expedient that provision should be made for regulating the relations between the two Houses of Parliament.That is what the Parliament Act did.And whereas it is intended to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of hereditary basis, but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation, and whereas provision will require hereafter to be made by Parliament in a measure effecting such substitution for limiting and defining the power of the new Second Chamber, but it is expedient to make such provision as in this Act appears for restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords.And then the enactment follows. It is understood by everybody at the time when 40 the Act was passed and at the General Election which preceded the passing of it, that the building up of a new Second Chamber is a very desirable thing and will take time.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Whoever talked about a twin Bill? [HON. MEMBERS: "Lord Loreburn."] It is quite evident that twins are generally supposed to be people who are born at or about the same time, and Lord Loreburn is too good a physiologist and too good a lawyer to have suggested that such a Bill could be a twin Bill in the literal acceptation of the term, because this Preamble clearly indicates that it is providing for a state of things which is to intervene between the erection of a new Second Chamber and a definition of the relations of that new Second Chamber to the other, and yet apparently, according to the conception of the right hon. Gentleman and a large number of his followers opposite, we were never to use the Parliament Act at all; we were to proceed at once to the reconstruction of the Second Chamber, and therefore the whole time spent on the elaboration of this measure and the whole of the General Election at which it was submitted to the people of this country were to be absolutely thrown away. A more grotesque proposition I have never heard. The Parliament Act was approved by the people because it was intended to be used, and it was intended to be used, as everybody knows, and as no one was more careful to point out than the right hon. Gentleman himself, exactly in the way in which it has been used. I say that, of course, as an historical fact, but, at the same time, I fully recognise the urgency and importance of carrying out the intention expressed in this Preamble.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The Noble Lord might express his scepticism more courteously. We recognise the importance of carrying out the intention in the most careful way. Not only are we under a distinct obligation to fulfil this intention, but we have the strongest possible interest in doing so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Does anybody think it is to our interest as a Parliamentary party to postpone the reconstitution of the Second Chamber? Look at what is happening in the House of Lords. I do not want to develop this in 41 a controversial spirit at all; but contrast what happened in 1912 with what happened exactly ten years before, in 1902. I want you to realise how vitally important it is to us that this promise contained in the Preamble should be fulfilled effectively and without avoidable delay. In 1902 an Education Bill was introduced into this House which had never been submitted to the electors. The electors never anticipated an education measure of so revolutionary a character, destroying the school boards, quartering the denominational schools upon the rates, upsetting our educational system from top to bottom, as was introduced and carried through this House. It was a revolutionary Education Bill which had never been submitted to, and never approved by, the people. What did the House of Lords do? It passed it. It not only gave it a Second Reading, but passed it without substantial amendment, except I think one, which made it more reactionary than it was when it left the floor of this House. Then what happened in 1912–what has happened to the Irish Government Bill? The right hon. Gentleman has constantly told us that we concealed from the electorate our intention to introduce a Home Rule Bill. He told us this afternoon, in a moment of candour and of plain speaking, that the sole object of the Parliament Act was to get the Home Rule Bill for Ireland through. That certainly was one of the objects of the Parliament Act and it was made perfectly clear to the electorate.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
It was not the right hon. Gentleman's fault if it was not. The Home Rule Bill went to the House of Lords, and no one will dispute at any rate that the subject was before the country for a great many years, unlike the Education Bill of 1902, and, then, when it went to the House of Lords, they refused it even a Second Reading. They did not propose Amendments, and they did not suggest alterations; they did not try to make it a more palatable measure to Ulster or to other interests concerned. They rejected it sans phrase, and yet it is supposed that we are interested in opposing the reconstruction of the House of Lords and the substitution for it of a Second Chamber which shall not be the partisan of a particular political interest, but which shall apply something like judicial consideration to measures brought before it. There is no party in this country which has a 42 stronger and more direct interest in the fulfilment of the intentions embodied in the Preamble of the Parliament Act than we have. I am sorry to have been betrayed so far, on the first night of the Session, into a controversial matter, but, with that exception, I acknowledge very gladly and very frankly the reasonable criticisms which the right hon. Gentleman has made, and I can assure him we shall endeavour without any avoidable delay, both in regard to the Estimates and also with regard to the progress of legislation, to take the House of Commons into our fullest confidence.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman made reference to foreign affairs, and there is one aspect of them, of not so controversial a character as others, on which I should like to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are generally believed—I speak with the utmost diffidence in regard to allegations which may not be well founded—to have entered into an arrangement, or to speak more accurately, to have given assurances, which in the contingency of a great European war would involve heavy military obligations on this country. We do not suspect the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary of pursuing anything but a pacific foreign policy, and we are far from saying that their policy is in any way an aggressive one; but certainly we believe, if the stories current are true, the policy, if it is not to be regarded as an aggressive one, is adventurous.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I am only anxious not to use words which will convey anything but perfectly fair criticism in a matter of this sort, and any ambiguity in what I have said is due to the fact that I do not wish to go beyond the necessities of the case.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
There is a very general belief that this country is under an obligation, not a treaty obligation, but an obligation arising out of an assurance given by the Ministry in the course of diplomatic negotiations, to send a very large armed force out of this country to operate in Europe. That is the general 43 belief. It would be very presumptuous of anyone who has not access to all the facts in the possession of the Government—
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
I am very glad to have elicited that explanation. It is certainly widely believed that the Government have engaged in a military policy of an adventurous kind, and I certainly think, if that is right, that it would involve very important considerations when you come to consider what are the military resources of this country. We shall have a debate on that point. It is impossible, as the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was fond of emphasising, to judge of the military policy of this or any country, unless you enter into the understandings or obligations involved by its foreign policy. It is quite impossible for this House fully to criticise the military policy of the Government unless they know, at any rate, what it is the Government expect the Army to do. It certainly would follow that if you were prepared, as no recent Government has attempted to be prepared, to take an important military part in the early stages of a great European war upon the Continent, the military preparations of other Governments, and of this Government in the earlier years of its tenure of office, were not sufficient. Let me add that I am not indicating or hinting that we ought to have compulsory military service. There is no one who dislikes compulsory military service in any shape or form more than I do, and I should never be convinced in its favour by any argument excepting that which showed it to be urgently necessary for the protection of the country. It is a matter for very grave consideration, if we are getting into a position in which obligations become binding upon us, whether the voluntary system will ultimately bear the strain. I do not believe any Government will adopt a compulsory military service unless the case is strong enough to be brought about by general consent. But what we have to be afraid of is that we will get into such a position that the military obligations of this country may become so heavy that the voluntary system may break down. I hope that the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for War may be able to co-ordinate the foreign policy and the military policy in order to show how the military policy and 44 foreign policy fit together—how far the military resources of the country are really sufficient to carry out the obligations thrown upon those resources by the foreign policy of the Government. I think that is a matter of very great importance. The rest of the Prime Minister's speech was in part necessarily controversial, and upon that I may be permitted to say one word. He loudly claimed, I think three times over, in his speech that no assurances had been given by the Government which they did not propose in the future to carry. I sometimes think that years hence the Prime Minister will retire from office still adhering to assurances which still remain to be carried out.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
All those three mentioned at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It is not only in respect of the Parliament Act that the position is regrettable. We are to have a Plural Voting Bill. We were told last Session that it would not be possible for the Government to again introduce a franchise proposal, or again to allow the House to incorporate an Amendment dealing with Women Suffrage into that measure. Since we last discussed that matter the question of Women Suffrage has been greatly discussed in the country, and people are profoundly dissatisfied that no alternative is now offered.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
It was uttered, if not by the right hon. Gentleman, by several of his leading colleagues, and was the pledge of the whole Government, though those to whom the pledge was given are not satisfied. I do not think the Government ought ever to have given that pledge; I do not think it is a pledge which it was desirable that a Government, deeply divided on Women Suffrage, should give. But they did give it, and, whether a desirable pledge or not, it is a pledge certainly carrying with it a great obligation on them, a great obligation of honour. Observe how they are going to deal with the franchise question, as to which they have two obligations. They have an obligation of interest for dealing with plural voting, and they have an obligation of honour of including in the Franchise Bill the opportunity for putting in Women Suffrage. They propose fully to meet the obligation 45 of interest, and they propose to deal with the obligation of honour by a composition. I think that is unfortunate, and particularly unfortunate in a Government which has dealt with other assurances as the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with other assurances by which the Parliament Act was passed. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Preamble and read it out to us, but he did not tell us that when he was supporting the Parliament Bill he said that the reform of the Second Chamber was an obligation of honour the meeting of which did not brook delay, but it has brooked delay. Observe how many Bills are now before it—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I said in the same speech, if not in the same sentence, in the present Parliament.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
Yes, but the present Parliament is now growing old. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Its absolute limit of time is five years, and it has now entered into its third year. [An HON. MEMBER: "Only half way."] No Parliament in modern times and no Parliament for hundreds of years has reached its full effluxion of time. This Parliament is now middle-aged, and when one reaches middle age one is often cut off by sudden illness. In the midst of life we are in death, and no Parliament, any more than any individual, can be sure how long its life will last. Observe how many Bills have been put in front of this obligation of honour which did not brook delay. There is not only the Home Rule Bill and the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, in respect of which the Government were probably acting under pressure which was not to be resisted, but when not under duress, and when they were perfectly free, they passed the Insurance Act, and in that time they might easily have passed a Bill reforming the Second Chamber. They are now going to pass a Plural Voting and an Education Bill, and they could easily pass a Bill reforming the Second Chamber in the time occupied by those Bills. So that even apart from Home Rule and Welsh Disestablishment, this obligation of honour, which did not brook delay, ranks, as I reckon, sixth, at least sixth, and probably much lower than sixth. I will only make one comment as to that. I observe that the people who praise the Government generally and the Prime Minister, refer to their scrupulous fulfilment of their pledges. That seems to me to be infelicitous. Everyone has his strong points and his weak points. There 46 have been eminent leaders who have not been, as the Prime Minister is, very brilliant Parliamentary speakers. There was Sir Stafford Northcote and the late Mr. W. H. Smith, who made no representations to oratory, but whose grounds of confidence were founded on straightforward public character. If I were undertaking to sing the praises of the Prime Minister I should speak a great deal about his brilliant public speaking, but very little about his elevated sense of political honour. I think, therefore, that it is a pity that these cases should go so far, one on the top of the other, to depreciate the value of Ministerial assurances. Ministerial assurances are part of Parliamentary currency. If they go down in value the whole system of Parliament begins to be affected very much as if currency in depreciated trade gets out of order.
The right hon. Gentleman has commented severely on the supposed hesitations of the Unionist party. I believe those hesitations exist only in the imagination of the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. We are, I believe, perfectly united in the struggle we are making against the Administration and its proposals; we are also profoundly convinced that if we could get the popular verdict on either of the two Bills which the House of Lords rejected last Session, we should certainly win on that popular verdict. But the true answer to the right hon. Gentleman and his elaborate sophistications on the subject of Home Rule being before the country at the last election, is this: That he could pass Home Rule to-morrow if he would consent to refer it to the people, and if he would add a single Clause referring it to the people before it became an Act. With that Clause it would pass through both Houses. Precisely because the Government and the Nationalist Members think the popular verdict would be hostile, they would not have that Clause. That is the true accusation against the Government. Whatever language was used by hon. Members or right hon. Members on this side in criticism on the subject of Home Rule at the last election, the plain fact is that the Government dare not submit Home Rule to the arbitration of the people. If they did so dare to do, it would be far the shortest way out of the difficulty, and they need never have gone through the struggle on the Parliament Act, and they could have passed that Bill by consent if they had been prepared to submit the Bill 47 to the people. That is the answer to all these statements as to whether the Bill was or was not before the people at the last General Election. It was not, and the Government know as well as the Opposition that they would not consent to it now. We, at any rate, have a very plain duty to perform. We resist Home Rule to the utmost, both because it is unfair to the minority to be handed over to their enemies and because it creates two nations within the area of the United Kingdom. That last is, I believe, the most serious danger of the two, and one which, in process of time, if Home Rule ever were to pass, would be found to be fraught with danger and weakness to this country. Other countries have tampered with the question of nationality and have endeavoured to unite in a single political unit separate national organisms. If we cannot unite in a single nationality, the least weakness is to be found in total separation. We are persuaded that England and Ireland, under the Legislative Union, were welding into one whole, and their history shows that they were growing closer and closer. That good work has been interfered with, though we do not believe it to be destroyed, and all the resources the remaining powers of Parliament can give, and all the resources of opposition in this country and in Ulster, will be well used to prevent this Bill passing into law. We shall not think, as hon. Members opposite fondly hope, of any proposals of compromise or of settlement. Our attitude is still that the Legislative Union is the foundation of the greatness of this country, and by that Union we shall adhere to the end.
§ Mr. JAMES PARKER
With regard to what the Noble Lord has said about Home Rule and the electors of this country, I think the electorate are tired of hearing the question discussed, and if that question could be put before the electors I have not the slightest doubt as to what the country would do. It is almost impossible, however, to put Home Rule before the electorate in the sense of the proposals of any particular Bill, hon. Gentlemen manage so to confuse the issues. With regard to the Speech from the Throne, it is important rather for what is not included in it than for what is included in it, and so far I agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I must also admit, in fairness, that there is not a Member of any party in 48 this House or any permanent official in any of the Departments but feels that to have twelve-month Sessions year by year is almost beyond the physical endurance, at any rate of those Members of the House who really work at their own business. Therefore, I think we may as well be candid with ourselves and with the country in regard to this matter, and I think possibly it is to the advantage of future legislation that there should be a short Session on this occasion. I do not intend to speak on the question of foreign policy at all. I claim to know very little about that subject, and I fancy very often that many of the people who do talk about it in this House are in a very similar position. At any rate, I will have the common sense to leave it alone. As to the second point raised in the Speech, I do hold certain views with regard to the question embodied in that Clause of the Speech which deals with the defence of the Empire. It has been said here this afternoon, in the course of the Debate, that the dangers to which the Empire has been subjected have brought the constituent parts of the Empire together in a way that nothing has ever done before. I cannot help feeling that one would wish it was something else that brought the constituent parts of the Empire together rather than the continued desire to increase armaments. I do not think, for instance, that the Malay States is such a very rich nation that the people there can afford, without terrible sacrifices, so far as the poor people of that country are concerned, to present battleships to this Empire. I do not claim to know of the matter at first hand, but were I a resident in that particular country I have no doubt I should know of an enormous amount of poverty pressing on people in the way in which we are familiar in this country, and poverty of a kind that needs the attention of the Government there rather than the spending of their money on battleships to assist in the defence of the Empire.
I wish to say one word very carefully with regard to the Canadian proposals. I feel that there is something more embodied in those proposals than the more taking of a share in the defence of the Empire. If I understand them aright, they go almost to the root of the control by this House of expenditure upon Imperial Defence. There is embodied in those proposals a certain suggestion which, if carried out on the lines put forward by the Press of this country, means 49 that a Committee outside this House and not in any way concerned with the speeches that may be made or with the votes that may be cast here, will have a determining voice in the foreign policy of this country, and this House will so far lose the power which it now possesses of bringing Ministers to book with regard to the various proposals put forward. Therefore, if we are to have battleships given or provided for by different portions of the Empire, I would prefer—I speak only for myself in this matter—that it should be on the Australian and New Zealand lines rather than by the method suggested by Canada. Passing to matters within our own country, I notice that the Speech refers to the sustained prosperity reflected in the statistics of the trade of the nation. I agree as to the sustained prosperity if it is to be judged by the tremendous increase in imports and exports, or by the tremendous increase in the income of the nation as a whole. But that prosperity has not been shared in by the class to which I belong, and which is the first interest that I represent in this House. It has been stated, and I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in this matter, that for the ten years preceding the last two years there has been comparatively no increase in the wages of the workers, although there has been a considerable increase in the cost of living; and even the increases which have been obtained during the last few years are by no means commensurate with the increased prosperity which the country has been enjoying.
I submit that there is nothing in this Speech which goes down to the root of that question in any shape or form. The Speech does not in any way touch those problems which are vital to the prosperity of the working classes of the country and which we as a party are anxious should be dealt with. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition who drew attention to the fact that a promise was made on the part of the Government some time ago that there should be brought forward this year legislation dealing with the great amount of labour unrest in the country. There is one very good way of reducing that unrest without any legislation at all, and that is for those who are obtaining the chief advantage of the tremendous increase of wealth to distribute it more evenly amongst those in our own country by whose labour it is created. With regard to the proposal for granting or guaranteeing a loan to the Egyptian Government for the growing of cotton. I person- 50 ally would rather vote for such a loan than for the granting of money for the building of battleships or the increase of armaments. I do not think that any Member on these benches will oppose that loan, because we believe that anything which goes to increase the productivity of any part of the Empire and is to the advantage of one of the largest industries of the nation is all to the good. But some of us would carry the principle much further. We believe that the Government might do a great deal to promote the productivity of land in the United Kingdom itself. We think, for instance, that money would be most effectively spent in this country on bringing into cultivation land which is now out of cultivation, some of it land which previously was cultivated and some of it which possibly has never been cultivated. We believe that that would be a real economic reform which the Government might wisely carry out.
Another proposal in the King's Speech has reference to the care and control of the feeble-minded. Here, again, I submit the House is dealing with a terrible effect which it sees to exist throughout the land, but is closing its eyes to the causes of that effect. It may be necessary for us immediately to pass legislation dealing with this problem; but when is this House going to set itself to consider the causes? Have Members ever thought that poverty, low wages, bad housing, and the terrible stress of modern life have something to do with feeble-minded children being brought into the world? Is the House prepared to consider these causes and to face them, as well as to bring forward remedial measures for the care and control of the feeble-minded after they have been created? These are just a few momentary criticisms of the legislative proposals in the King's Speech. Speaking for myself, I say candidly that I am glad we are not to have a long Session. But I believe that even in this short Session, given willingness on the part of the House, it would be possible to bring forward legislation that would materially improve the general condition of the people; and, though the Government have not included it in the Speech from the Throne, I trust that my hon. Friends will divide the House upon a carefully drafted Amendment putting forward proposals which we believe would go to the root of things, succeed ultimately in making a better distribution of the wealth created by labour, and bring about a real social reform for the people as a whole.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
I am grateful to the Government, and especially to the Prime Minister, for making good in the Speech from the Throne, the promise made on the occasion of an Amendment of mine to the Government of Ireland Bill, that they would introduce this Session a Bill for the completion of Land Purchase in Ireland. I sincerely hope that that Bill will realise the remarkable assurance in the King's Speech, that it will secure the completion of Land Purchase in Ireland, and that we shall not be landed again in the series of blunders and mischances which led to the practical repeal of the Act of 1903. I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not respond sufficiently to the appeal of the Leader of the Opposition to tell us whether there is any truth in the rumours that the contemplated measure will be a mere subsidiary departmental arrangement, concerned chiefly or solely with the Treasury rate of interest or with the value of the stock. If those rumours are correct I am afraid that the Government are preparing for themselves a considerable degree of disappointment in Ireland. The party behind me have led their followers to believe that no measure of Land Purchase which is not compulsory as against the landlords can be satisfactory. Unquestionably the great mass of Irish farmers have got it into their heads that there is some extraordinary virtue in the blessed word "compulsion" as applied to landlords, and if there be no compulsion widespread will be the disappointment and reaction. I see that a revolt has already commenced in one portion of the country. I do not at all share that view of compulsion. Compulsion, of course, there must be before Land Purchase can be completed; but I venture to say that in the first instance at all events the compulsion must be upon the Treasury to carry out the solemn treaty that was entered into with Ireland in 1903. If the Act of that year had only been allowed to go ahead unchecked I believe there are hardly any landlords in the whole country, except one or two lunatics like Lord Clanricarde, who would not by this time have closed with the terms offered them by their tenants if they could have had some guarantee that they would get the price of their property from the Treasury. The President of the Board of Agriculture admitted in this House that it was in order to save the Treasury that the finance of the Act of 1903 was repealed. It may have saved 52 the Treasury some petty sum, but it has killed Land Purchase over half the country for the past five years, and also made a very unpleasant addition to the long list of broken treaties with which history has to reproach England in her dealings with Ireland. I hope there will be no repetition of that shabby policy of penny wisdom and pound foolishness.
I wish also that the Prime Minister had been able to give us some assurance that before finally framing their Bill the Government would in some manner consult the two parties principally concerned. All the world now admits and nobody knows better than the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture that the extraordinary success of the Act of 1903 was the result of an agreement between landlords and tenants, and could never have been secured otherwise. There is no real reason why a similar agreement should not be arrived at under present circumstances, if certain of our Friends from Ireland can only clear themselves from that extraordinary antipathy to anything bearing the name of a conference. So far as I know up to the present—and this is a point on which I should like to have some information from the Government—the Government have done nothing whatever to bring about any such similar agreement. As my knowledge goes, they have taken nobody into consultation except their own political partisans. Apparently—I hope I will be contradicted—but apparently they are proceeding on the principle on which all Irish legislation for the past couple of years has been conducted, the principle of boycotting, of leaving absolutely out of consultation, more than one-quarter of the entire representation of Ireland—Nationalists as well as Unionists. That was what they did in 1909. The result was an Act which this House is now in this Session to be called upon to recast.
I earnestly hope that that fatal mistake will not be repeated. If it is, the result will most certainly be disappointment, failure, and abortiveness in Ireland. I do not, of course, for a moment expect that on an occasion of this kind, and at this stage, anything like a detailed statement of the nature of the Bill. But I do think that in a matter of such magnitude to Ireland we should at least be informed how soon we may expect that the Bill will be introduced. I would like to know also whether or not it is true that the Bill will be a mere Departmental arrangement, which would make it impossible for us to 53 discuss such vital questions as the question of future tenants, or town tenants, or of the provision of some compassionate allowance for those meritorious cases of evicted tenants which remain still undisposed of. When you remember that the present system, the present double and mutually destructive system of mixed rent fixing and of land puchase has cost you—or rather has cost us—over four hundred thousand pounds a year, I really would entreat the representatives of the Government, for heaven's sake, to make a clean sweep of the difficulty this time in the interests of genuine economy, as well as in the best interests of Ireland.
Another matter on which I should like to offer some observations—as this is perhaps the only opportunity one may immediately have for doing so—is this: I am glad to notice that the Speech from the Throne contains no mention of any intention to introduce an amending Insurance Bill for the purpose of bringing medical benefit into force into Ireland. I am sorry that none of the Members of the Cabinet have done us the honour to assist at this Debate, and I do not know whether or not the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture will be in a position to answer any Irish questions on behalf of the Government. If he is not, I think it somewhat of a scandal that we should commence the Session without anybody even to offer a reply on matters of so extremely great importance to Ireland—and perhaps of some importance to this House as well. I want to know whether the omission of this subject from the Speech from the Throne means that the Government have no intention of forcing legislation upon the subject this Session through the House of Commons. The reason the matter is so urgent is that there is a Committee appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer which is at this moment actively at work in Ireland. It is a Committee which by its constitution is open to the gravest suspicion and distrust. I will not at this moment go into my reasons for saying so, beyond mentioning the fact that the majority of that Committee are directly, personally, and officially interested in insurance, and the other fact that the Committee does not contain a single M.P. or non-official representative from the whole of the provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connaught.
There is another reason why it becomes urgent that we should know what the Government are about. This Committee has been attempting to hustle this question 54 through in what I do not hesitate to say is a most partisan spirit, making a rush for two days to Belfast, for two days to Dublin, and for a couple of hours on one day to Cork, in the meantime absolutely shutting out and refusing to hear the representatives of the county councils or any representatives from the agricultural community in Ireland. What I want to point out is that ever since a few weeks ago I suggested that the housing of the poorest of the poor in the Irish cities and towns would be far the best use, even from the health insurance point of view, of any Grant-in-Aid which would be the Irish equivalent of the £1,800,000 which we Irishmen, as well as you, provide for Great Britain—ever since that, time there has been a strong and a growing feeling all over Ireland that whatever Treasury Grant-in-Aid may be available, in the first instance, at all events, it would be far best applied through the Agricultural Labourers Act to the slums of the cities and towns of Ireland. Let me point out this further as a reason why there is no hurry whatever about any further insurance legislation to Ireland. We are confidently assured that we shall have an Irish Parliament sitting next year. If that Parliament is to have any power of dealing with anything, the problem of Poor Law reform will be the very first reform that will be tackled. I submit it would be a monstrous thing at this period from the sitting of an Irish Parliament to take that matter out of the hands of that Parliament by appropriating funds which alone can finance such a reform as that and applying them to bolstering up an Act which, apart from the cities and a few manufacturing towns, is, practically speaking, a dead letter in Ireland.
Recollect, we have not the slightest objection to medical benefit being extended to any particular approved society in Ireland which is ready to pay the additional 1½d. a week for the luxury. But we totally object to its being forced upon the people who do not want it. We object, above all, that the only fund that in our time, so far as I can see, that will make it possible to build labourers' cottages in the towns and villages of Ireland to be let for anything from 1s. or 1s. 6d. a week, being confiscated and the money appropriated to an Act which, outside the towns, three-fourths of Ireland objects to. It was precipitancy which led you to forcing this Act upon Ireland, and led the party who sit behind me into taking action which I 55 understand they are now very anxious to reverse. There can be no reason why anybody with any confidence in the future of Ireland should not, at all events, wait for twelve months, and see what that time and experience will tell us. I do hope we shall have some plain assurance from the Government that they have no intention of rushing or passing any legislation on the subject for Ireland this Session. If they have, undoubtedly there are some of us who will feel it our duty to resist it by every possible means, both within this House and outside. I trust we shall have some answer from the Treasury Bench to the representations we have made in these matters of very considerable importance to Ireland, and that there will be no repetition of the policy of either ignoring our questions or only answering in part.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
My purpose in rising is to touch upon one point which is mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, and one question which is not. The point which is in the Speech has reference to the Estimates, and I confess the matter fills me with some alarm. I notice, in the first place, that the time-honoured phrase about the Estimates being framed with due regard to economy seems to have permanently disappeared from the language of the Speech from the Throne. For myself, I think it is a very wise thing, even though in practice it was somewhat departed from, that economy should at least be promised in the Estimates presented to the House. I would suggest that in future years we might revert to the old form. If the omission in the words referring to economy troubles me, still more ominous are the words that follow. For not only is not anything said about economy in the framing of the Estimates, but following words point out that the nation is very rich. These two sentences taken together make me fear that the Estimates when we do see them will be very disappointing to those of use who came into this House pledged to economy, and with a desire, if possible, to reduce the Estimates presented. As it is not possible to go into details on that point to-day we must wait until we see the Estimates. But I am bound to say the phrases in His Majesty's Gracious Speech do suggest that there will be real work for economists in the Session before us. The point which is not in the King's Speech is a point of legislation which I think a good many people in this country did hope 56 to see in the legislative programme for this Session. Though I recognise what has been said by almost every speaker in this Debate of the difficulty of a long and protracted Session after the thirteen months through which we have just gone, it is impossible for me not to give expression to the disappointment which I feel, and which will be felt by a very large number of people in this country, that there is no reference in the Speech to a measure of temperance reform for England and Wales. I am not criticising the items of legislation which are included in the King's Speech. I recognise the value of the claims of Irish land purchase, and I recognise that the other measures referred to are measures of importance, and as such they will have my support, but I cannot but regret that the important social reform which was dealt with by the Licensing Bill of 1908 finds no place in the programme of this Session. The Government have all along pledged themselves to this reform. They have fully recognised the importance and the urgency of dealing with the question. When they came into power in 1906 they came into power pledged to undo and reverse the Licensing Act of 1904. The Prime Minister to-day referred to the Education Act of 1902, which, he said, was an educational revolution carried through without authority from the country. I think the Licensing Act of 1904 was a revolution carried out without any authority from the country. At the very time when it was passed, the Leader of the Liberal party in this House, the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, and also the present Prime Minister, declared that they would not accept the Act of 1904 as a permanent part of the legislation of this country, but at the very first opportunity they would reverse that Act. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's own words were that he would, at the earliest opportunity, pluck the evil out of the Act of 1904. So strong was it felt that the Government were pledged to that cause, that when there was no reference in the King's Speech of 1906 to this matter, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham commented strongly upon it. He called it a curious omission, and he said that he had looked through a great number of the addresses of Liberal Members, and "I find," said the right hon. Gentleman, "that temperance has a prominent place in all of them." That was in 1906. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman replying on 57 that debate accepted to the full the statement which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had made, and said he believed that temperance was the key stone, or the corner stone, of the edifice of the prosperity of this country, and that the sole reason for not bringing in a Bill in that Session was that there was not time to deal with it. It was in the King's Speech of 1907, and again in 1908. In 1908 we had a Bill to deal with it.
What I want to point out to the House in that connection is this, that it was not easy to find time for a Temperance Reform Bill then. It was necessary to have an Autumn Session in that year, and I submit that the question is not less important to-day than it was then. Though I shrink from inflicting harder labours upon the Members of this House, still I think the promise of legislation ought to be fulfilled, and I think that the Government ought to have done its best to pass this measure in the present Session. The Government cannot plead that they have in any way fulfilled the pledges made by the mere introduction and carrying through this House of the Bill of 1908. After that Bill had been destroyed in another place, under circumstances with which all Members here are familiar, the Prime Minister was entertained at dinner by his followers at the National Liberal Club, and he invited his followers on that occasion not to pursue temperance reform or social reform until they had dealt with the constitution of the House of Lords and settled the relations which were to exist between that House and this House. A few weeks later he met a deputation, representative of the temperance parties in this country, and, repeating to them what he had said in regard to the uselessness of introducing temperance legislation so long as the House of Lords retained its then power, he used certain words, which I will read to the House, because they sum up the case I have to present, and I think they justify me, and justify the temperanec workers in this country, in expecting the Government to proceed with their proposals for licensing reform.
The deputation was representative of practically the whole of the organised temperance forces of this country, and the Prime Minister told them that the Government had not abated by one jot their interest or their determination in regard to this matter, and when the time came, which would not be far distant, when they joined issue and came into the open field, 58 there was no measure in regard to which they would appeal more confidently to the people of the country than a measure of temperance reform. He said it would be in the forefront of the controversy, and if the people decided that controversy by saying that they would be masters in their own house he did not doubt that one of the first fruits of victory would be that that measure would take its place upon the Statute Book. I would emphasise the words of the Prime Minister, "the first fruits of victory," and it is because of those words that I am here to-day asking that among the early legislative measures of the Government should be a measure of temperance reform. The temperance workers in the country accepted the advice which the Prime Minister gave them for two reasons. The first reason was that they felt with him that it was hopeless to proceed with drastic temperance reform so long as the House of Lords retained its power. But an even greater reason for the patience of the temperance workers was that they felt confidence in the Prime Minister as the Leader of the Government. They were grateful to him for what he had done in regard to the Bill of 1908, and they were confident that he would take the earliest possible opportunity of reintroducing that measure, with the necessary alterations in consequence of the Budget, and carry it into law. For two elections they helped the Government.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The hon. Baronet opposite says the Government did not have a majority at the election of 1910. I do not know how he makes that out. It is quite certain that in regard to dealing with the House of Lords they had a majority in 1910, both in January and again in December. At both of these elections the organised weight of the temperance workers in this country was thrown into the scale on the side of the Government because of the declaration which had been made by the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government. It has sometimes been said that a temperance Bill has been rendered unnecessary by the passing of the Budget of 1909. Comparatively heavy taxation was laid upon the trade by that Budget. I supported that Budget, but I never supported it or the licensing proposals in it as any alternative for the temperance parts of the Licensing Bill of 1908. There is nothing in this taxation of the 59 trade which can take the place of those reforms which the temperance forces of this country are asking for. The taxation laid on the trade has been passed on to the consumers in the country, and it has brought a certain amount of money into the Exchequer. To some extent it has tended to check the consumption of liquor, and from that point of view I welcome it. But the consumers have paid all the taxation that was put upon the liquor trade by the Budget of 1909, and far more than the taxation that was put upon the trade.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The hon. Baronet dissents; he ought to know as well as anybody that the consumers who have continued to consume have paid the tax. It is not so easy to get at the figures in regard to spirits as it is in regard to beer, but I will trouble the House with a few figures in regard to beer which will prove the well-established rule laid down in the Papers issued by the Government that every tax upon beer results in a diminished special gravity of the beer—that is to say, it results in the addition of more water to the beer which is sold to the public.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
From one point of view, the more water consumed and the less alcohol the better I am pleased; but I am dealing with the question whether the trade has suffered by the taxation imposed in the Budget of 1909. The House perhaps is not familiar with the process. The tax is laid upon the standard barrels of beer—that is to say, a barrel of beer to a standard of specific gravity. The beer is sold at a lower specific gravity than that on which it is taxed. I have here some figures which the hon. Baronet (Sir George Younger) will find it difficult to shake. In the year ending 31st March, 1900, for every thousand standard barrels of beer on which the tax was paid I find that the brewers sold in this country 1,007.3 barrels, which means that 7.3 additional barrels of water were sold to the public.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
Yes, that was the amount of additional water in every thousand barrels of beer sold. A war tax of a shilling was put on in 1900, with the 60 result that the bulk of the barrels became 1,023.6, meaning that 23.6 barrels cost the brewers nothing. In 1902 it had risen to 1,035.4; in 1909, 1,016.2–the House will see that the water goes on being added. In the Budget of 1909 threepence per barrel Licence Duty was put on, and in the next year the figure had jumped up to 1,058.6 barrels for every 1,000 barrels on which the tax was paid, so that while they paid tax on 1,000 barrels, the trade were selling to the public 1,058.6 barrels.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
Has the hon. Gentleman got figures to show whether or not they were charging the same price for the beer? There is a greater desire for a cheaper and lighter beer.
§ Mr. LEIF JONES
The result is this, that in extra water alone—I do not complain of the consumption of water as such—the trade have sold to the public of this country 13,500,000 barrels of beer, and, as the whole of the extra beer taxes have only amounted to about £19,000,000, I think it will be seen that the trade have passed on to the consumer pretty successfully the whole of the taxes placed upon them. There is, as I have previously pointed out, nothing in this taxation which is any remedy for the evils of drink, for which we require temperance legislation. The need for temperance legislation is as great as ever it was. It is just, as great as when Mr. Gladstone declared that this question was ripe for immediate settlement. It is as urgent as it was in 1906 when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman pledged himself to deal with it, and as urgent as it was in 1908 when the Government endeavoured to deal with it. I ask, therefore, that there will be no more delay on the part of the Government in bringing in their Bill on this subject. I do not, of course, undervalue the legislation which the Government have promised to introduce, but we cannot afford to lose time in this matter. While the present system goes on new generations are growing up, and are being sacrificed under the present bad conditions under which drink is being sold. It is time we had the legislation for which I am asking. The people are asking for it and the Government have promised it, and I think the time has now come when that promise should be fulfilled.
§ Mr. CHARLES BATHURST
I wish to offer a word of welcome to the last item in the Gracious Speech which deals with 61 the development of a national system of education. I regret that the Mover of the Address had to confess entire ignorance upon the subject of education, and that the Seconder made no reference to it, because this question appears to represent th chief Government measure of the Session upon which we have just entered. The state of education at the present moment is one of chaos throughout the country. The work of the local education authorities, which is often very much misrepresented in this House and the country, has been for some years entirely paralysed through the lack of sufficient funds to carry on the work which they are being pressed to do by the Board of Education and the country. I do not know what these education proposals are, even in outline, but I am certain that no proposals for dealing effectively with education from a national standpoint will be of the smallest use, or can be effectively carried into operation unless a very large Grant is made from the Imperial Exchequer towards the cost of what has been repeatedly admitted by Royal Commissions to be a national service. Speaking on behalf of the County Councils Association and the numerous local education authorities which it represents, I should like to say that I hope that this is going to be a real measure of education and not, as has been the case with many Bills with a similar title, a Religious Squabbles Bill. These religious squabbles which have formed the basis of so many Education Bills in this House, have seriously retarded the progress of education, and have prevented us founding our education on a really sound and unified basis. I am rather inquisitive to know what has happened to the long promised measure for the relief of the local ratepayer. I had hoped that in the Gracious Speech from the Throne we should have had some indication that the grievances of the ratepayer would be dealt with in the course of the present Session. Two years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted in this House that those grievances were urgent, and he promised that they would receive his early attention. The right hon. Gentleman appointed a Departmental Committee to consider the relations between Imperial and local taxation. He explicity stated that their sittings would be short, and that they would report at the earliest possible date. That report is not yet forthcoming, and the Government proposals for easing the too heavy burdens of the local rate-payers are not presented to the House—
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I understand that there is going to be an Amendment on this subject.
§ Mr. C. BATHURST
I am aware of that, but the arrival in the House of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was too strong a temptation for me to resist referring to the matter. I was referring more specifically to the great question of national education which the Government are now bound to deal with, and which cannot be effectively dealt with without a large Grant from the Imperial Exchequer. We must all admit that compared with other leading countries in Europe, or at any rate with our chief continental commercial rivals, we are getting very much into the background in the matter of progress in commercial education calculated to best fit our workers to carry on successfully their work in those industries in which we suffer most from foreign competition. It is common knowledge that the classes in both our elementary and secondary schools are far too large to ensure a really useful education to the students. I should like to go further and say that I do not think that our teachers are as well qualified as they should be for the work they are asked to do, and particularly that practical side of education to which so much encouragement is being given in other countries, and which is leading to such valuable results here, where emphasis is being laid upon it. As regards the remuneration of the teachers, taking into account the high cost of living and the very great and responsible work which the elementary school teachers of this country are asked to do, and the importance of maintaining their social position in the community amongst which they live, I think their salaries are much too small. The male head teachers' salaries do not average £200 per year, and the salaries of the women head teachers do not average even £150 per year. Compared with the salaries given to other persons in a similar walk of life who are not carrying on nearly such important national work those salaries are too small for these national workers, and I hope that in the new scheme of national education some consideration will be given to the matter.
There is another matter which I hope will be covered by this Bill, and that is the enormous importance of continuous education beyond the early age at which as a rule education in this country comes to an end. We spend an enormous sum, derived largely 63 from the rates, upon elementary education in this country—I think the amount is something like £25,000,000 a year. Do we get full benefit for that expenditure? I think we waste a very large proportion of that money in preparing children for an education which in fact they never receive, because we remove them from the school at the very age in which in other classes of life true education begins, and at that plastic age when education becomes a real factor and an important basis for work in after life. We have been told that we might with advantage assimilate our system to that prevailing in Scotland. The chief feature of Scottish education in which the Scottish people may be deemed to excel is the system of semi-compulsory continuation classes. I hope, whether by continuation schools or otherwise, the education of our children will not cease at the age of thirteen or fourteen years, and I trust that we shall be able to train the future workers of this country out of the public exchequer to the age of sixteen or seventeen years. I hope we shall be able to carry public opinion with us in this matter, and prevail upon the parents of the children not to be reluctant in allowing their children to receive what is, after all, the greatest asset that the nation can possibly confer upon them. This is a matter which ought to receive special attention from the Government. I cannot conceive how the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite can advocate the claims of Free Trade, if they want to maintain the position of our industries amongst the industries of the world, unless they are prepared to properly equip our children, and thereby protect them in a true and effective sense against the effects of foreign competition, from which they are insufficiently protected at the present time. I am sorry that neither the Government, nor the Mover or the Seconder of the Address have vouchsafed any detailed information with regard to the Government education scheme, but if something like £5,000,000 per annum is forthcoming—and I do not believe that anything less will be of any real value—for the advancement of education, I am sure every local education authority throughout the Kingdom will, regardless of party preference, give a hearty support to the proposals of the Government relating to education.
I wish to associate myself with the expressions of regret which have fallen from these benches and from the Labour 64 Benches that something like £3,000,000 is going to be spent for the development of cotton growing in the Soudan while nothing is proposed to be spent upon the development of agricultural land in this country. An opportunity in this respect has come to the front in the matter of the cultivation of sugar beet, a nascent industry which even Free Traders will find it consistent with their fiscal principles to support. Here is an industry which has been shown to be capable of producing all the sugar that we require in this country, amounting to over 2,000,000 tons a year, and valued at £26,500,000, and will give most remunerative employment to the workers upon agricultural land in many parts of the country, notably in the Eastern and South-Eastern counties. It will also provide good wages for those employed in the factories where the beet is converted into sugar, and at the same time it will be of inestimable value to those small holders for the artificial creation of which the Government are so largely responsible. There is no crop with the possible exception of flax which is so well suited to the activities of the small holder as that of sugar beet cultivation, and for that reason if for no other, desiring as I do to see a larger number of small occupiers of agricultural land in this country profitably employed, I should like to have had some promise of Government support towards the important new industry of sugar cultivation in this country.
§ Sir G. YOUNGER
I only rise to answer one point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones). I am not going to re-echo the hon. Member's complaint that there is no mention of a Licensing Bill in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I have a distinct recollection of the 1908 measure, and an equally distinct recollection that after the General Election there was not a majority for that measure in this House. I also remember that the Budget supervened upon the licensing measure, and that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that he could not decently impose his taxation upon the trade if the 1908 measure had been passed. The hon. Member said that he did not accept as any reason for not bringing in a similar licensing reform the statement that the brewer had been heavily taxed as he had been able to secure the whole of the taxation placed upon him by reducing the gravity of the beer. He went back to the dark ages when he talked about the gravity being 65 above the standard. The difference in the standard since the Budget, as a matter of fact, is very small indeed. The hon. Gentleman is one of those unfortunate people who get hold of one side of the case and do not get hold of the whole of the argument. Somebody puts some figures in his hand, and he thinks he has sufficient argument in those figures, but in taking the gravity he entirely forgets the question of price. He ought to be entirely satisfied with the situation as he tells us it is, because the public drink a much lighter article. When they wanted a stronger article the specific gravity was higher, and now they want a lighter article it is lower. The price used to be about 70s. per barrel as an average, but it is now about 45s. per barrel. Therefore, the whole structure he built upon the figures he gave falls to the ground.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
It is characteristic that whereas an answer is given immediately with regard to the question of a loan for the encouragement of cotton-growing in the Soudan, no information has been given to my hon. Friend (Mr. W. O'Brien), who asked a question with regard to Land Purchase in Ireland. This loan to the Soudan shows that to speak of this or any section as a Free Trade party is the merest sham. I do not believe there is a single Free Trader in the Government or in the House of Commons, and I am glad to think so. This £3,000,000 loan to the Soudan is really intended as a bounty for Lancashire, and it is intended to get Lancashire votes. I am not at all against it, but I think it puts an end to the pretence of Free Trade. Last year one or two millions were given to some other part of the tropical area in exactly the same spirit. These are all bounties, and they are all dead in the teeth of your pretence of Free Trade. So far as sugar beet is concerned, my hon. Friend above the Gangway (Mr. C. Bathurst) has not done the Prime Minister justice, because in one of the most remarkable speeches that has ever proceeded from him, he about six months ago frankly advocated bounties as regards sugar beet, and I think he even suggested them for tobacco. If I am contradicted about tobacco I will not persist in that, but I entirely decline to believe this is a Free Trade Government or a Free Trade House of Commons. It is only a question of degree between the two parties, and each will do exactly what they think suits them.
66 My hon. Friend has put two or three questions with regard to land purchase to which I think we are entitled to an answer. He has pointed out that because you refused to take opinions in Ireland your Bill of five years ago has fallen flat and lamentably failed, and he asks whether you propose to take both sides, landlords and tenants, into your confidence, or whether you propose to throw down a scheme ready made in the Treasury and fashioned on the Treasury model, or whether you intend to propose a scheme and expect it to go through by general consultation with all the interested parties. The Government, having had the lesson of five or six years ago with regard to that Bill, will, I hope, while having abstained from decorating the Treasury Bench during my hon. Friend's speech, at least do him the justice of studying his observations, and, instead of committing themselves after listening only to one side of the question, a policy which has landed them in a morass in regard to this question, will take a general survey, and only bring in their Bill when it is likely to come into effectual operation. I think we have a serious ground of quarrel with the Government. The Prime Minister has stated this is to be a comparatively short Session, and that matter of too controversial a kind is not to be crowded into it. We all welcome that, and, if the Government will adhere to that proposal, we shall be found to give them cordial support in every effort to limit the duration of the Session; but, if they deliberately fling a brand of discord into our proceedings, then we shall take a general interest in all that goes on.
This is as remarkable a proceeding as was ever exposed in the House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, yielding to pressure from one side, has now in operation in Ireland dealing with the Insurance Act what is called a Treasury Committee. I do not know what a Treasury Committee is; it is new to me. We know what a Parliamentary Committee is; we have heard of a Departmental Committee, and we have heard both of a Royal Commission and of a Viceregal Commission; but I have never known such a body to be appointed in Ireland as is now roaming through certain congested areas of that country, areas where they think they will get evidence suitable to themselves. The Commission is a packed Commission. It was never heard of or suggested until the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), without notice, asked the 67 Chancellor of the Exchequer what was to be done on this particular subject. "Oh," said the right hon. Gentleman, "the Government have made up their minds to appoint a Committee, consisting of Lord Ashby St. Ledgers (Chairman), Dr. T. J. Stafford (Medical Commissioner of the Local Government Board of Ireland), Dr. W. J. Maguire (Medical Commissioner of the National Health Insurance Commission, Ireland), Mr. J. Devlin, M.P., Mr. H. T. Barrie, M.P., Mr. Lardner, M.P., Mr. J. A. Glynn (Chairman of National Health Insurance Commission, Ireland), Mr. W. L. Micks (Commissioner of the Congested Districts Board), Mr. J. S. Bradbury (principal Clerk at the Treasury). Why should all that have been done behind the backs of the House of Commons? Why should the right hon. Gentleman have selected three Members of Parliament representing one province in Ireland alone—one Conservative Member and two Nationalist Members? Ireland, after all, has four provinces, important as Ulster is, and I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman selected the names of three Members confined to a single province. The money has to be found by the taxpayers of the entire country, and they are entitled to voice their opinions upon it. Employers of labour in the other provinces are concerned, and, except for securing an ad hoc verdict or a verdict of a packed tribunal, no Gentleman in his senses would have dreamed of appointing that Commission. Its verdict, to use a well-known phrase, will go forth without authority and come back without respect. Nobody will care three straws what its opinion is. You can judge of its opinion in advance from the conduct of its proceedings. I have never read such browbeating of witnesses or such partisanship on the part of a Chairman. I never heard of Lord Ashby St. Ledgers before I read of his name in this connection. I suppose he came over with William the Conqueror.
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
All I know is that he is a Member of the House of Lords. I want to know what were his Qualifications for sitting on this Commission. I have dealt with the three Members of Parliament, all belonging to the one province, where there might naturally be some feeling in favour of an extension of medical 68 benefit. What are we to say of the other gentlemen? They are almost without exception connected with officialism in Ireland, and mostly with insurance. It should be remembered you are dealing with a question where the ratepayers of Ireland provide medical benefit already under the Medical Charities Act, and that so far as Ireland goes, defective as in some respects the system may be, medical benefit has endured for three-quarters of a century. Other branches of workhouse reform have been dealt with by Royal Commission, but without debate and without a single question the right hon. Gentleman suddenly sprung this proposal upon the House for dealing with this matter. It is, to my mind, partisanship run mad. I wish to say that the Prime Minister treats Irish questions in a very different spirit from some of his colleagues. I am glad to recognise that. He shows courtesy, he shows consideration, he shows a willingness to listen, and above all he shows that good temper which should distinguish any man in the position which he has the honour to fill. I am glad to recognise that spirit, and it is only bare justice I should say so. That is not the spirit shown by some of his colleagues.
There seems to be a notion on the part of some Gentlemen that if you say one word of criticism of any Member of the Cabinet you are committing some crime, or that you are touching the Ark of the Covenant. It is as if you committed some act of desecration. The Government, however, exist in this House for the purpose of being criticised, and we do expect when we ask for information, as my hon. Friend has done in temperate language, that even on the first day of the Session some reasonable reply will he given. I say we ought to have a pledge that just as the Chief Secretary dropped the Compulsory Notification Clause out of the Tuberculosis Bill last Session, because he said Home Rule was in the offing, something of the same kind will be done here. Although compulsory notification is the law in Scotland, Wales, and England, he dropped it out because it was said that an Irish Parliament could deal with the question. If an Irish Parliament be in the immediate offing, as suggested, would it not be a monstrous thing, on the Report of a partisan Commission, whose composition has never been debated in this House, and with regard to a question in which already some provision is made under the Medical Charities system, and as to which the 69 bishops of Ireland, who, after all, may be reasonably supposed, even by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to have an interest in their frocks, are not satisfied that that question should be hastily dealt with and should not be remitted over to that happy day in May next year when we are told that Home Rule is at last to come into existence. An Irish song says, "Oh! my heart is weary waiting for the May," and next year in May we are told we shall have Home Rule. The hon. Member for Waterford has distinctly so stated. Having waited for three-quarters of a century for the reform of this question of medical benefit, surely we can wait for another twelve months. Surely there is no necessity for asking Lord Ashby St. Ledger to go over with a tearing, raging programme through Ireland, clubbing the witnesses who come before him, for that is what it amounts to. He had the assistance of the Member for West Belfast, and the proceedings read to me like those of the "Baton Convention" on the land question about five years ago—a Convention to discuss the Land Bill which is now proved to be a failure, and where anybody who said a word to suggest that the Bill would prove a failure had his head tapped with a baton. That was a very effective way of promoting legislation.
Lord Ashby St. Ledgers seems in the course of his travels to have cut from some hedge an excellent specimen of a blackthorn, and every witness who comes out who suggests anything of the nature that there are two sides to the question is asked, "You represent capital, I presume?" or, "Do you represent capital or 70 labour?" I notice one gentleman whose name is very familiar in the city of Cork, Mr. Dominick Daly, said he represented the Diocesan Health Society of St. Finbarr with 13,000 members. These gentlemen, who spent four hours in Cork, asked him did he represent capital or labour, and he said he represented the Diocesan Society. This Commission also suppressed the evidence of a prominent man who was connected with the county council (Mr. O'Mahony), a man of large experience and a great merchant. They refused to hear him and sailed away, but in three or four weeks we shall have a Report presented to this House, at the expense of the taxpayers, explaining the urgency of this question of a settlement of the medical benefit. I denounce this system—it is preposterous. It has never been heard of before—this system of rushing legislation. If any attempt is made to rush legislation through the House on evidence from a packed Commission, we will resist the legislation of the Government, and we will meet it with every form of opposition which is open to us.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate accordingly adjourned till To-morrow (Tuesday).
§ ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Lloyd George.]
§ House adjourned accordingly at Ten minutes before Eight of the clock.