§ * EARL FITZWILLIAM
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships' House for the first time, I venture to express a hope that I may be accorded that consideration which is so often extended to those who find themselves in my position. Your Lordships will have noticed that the opening paragraph of the Gracious Speech which has been read from the Throne, contains the now happily usual announcement that our relations with foreign countries continue to be friendly. Surely at no time has this familiar phrase to be repeated with more satisfaction than at the present moment, when the omission of it would spell all that your Lordships' House do not desire, and perhaps give a difficult and uncongenial task to the mover of this Address.
Your Lordships will have noticed with much satisfaction the announcement of the conclusion of a treaty of arbitration with France. The principle of arbitration is one which will always commend itself to this House. There is, my Lords, perhaps no nation with which it would be more advantageous for us to enter into Articles of Arbitrament than with our nearest neighbours. In the treaty recently concluded with the French Republic, the principle of arbitration is affirmed, subject to reservations which, if they limit the scope of the Agreement, do so in a manner which prudence no doubt requires. The treaty proceeds upon business lines. It lays down, in the first instance, that those matters which it has not been found possible for the contracting parties to settle by diplomacy shall be accurately ascertained; and, secondly, that a special Agreement in each case shall set out clearly the matters in dispute, and also the scope of the powers of the arbitrators. Great Britain and France have naturally availed themselves of the Hague Tribunal as an Arbitral Court for the purposes of the treaty, and it becomes clear that that Court, the institution of which we owe to the humane instincts and peaceful endeavours of the Czar, is destined to have 7 important uses in the future. My Lords, everything which tends to a better understanding with France must inevitably appeal to your Lordships. As the representative of the French Republic at this Court has said so well lately—The business relations of the two countries are so important that it would be absurd to allow anything to cause a rupture of them.The Treaty to which I have alluded may be a very great or striking departure, but at least it is a step in the right direction, and may prove valuable as a means of avoiding the irritation consequent on the discussion of questions in which neither party sees its way to arrive at a settlement.
My Lords, while in this time of tension our minds are drawn to the events now taking place in the China Seas, we cannot pass over without due reflection those occurrences in the Near East which during the past few months have seemed to portend such grave possibilities. With reference to that paragraph in the Speech which deals with the reforms formulated by Austria-Hungary and Russia, acting in this matter in the name of all the Signatories of the Treaty of Berlin, the correspondence shows that while His Majesty's Government have been willing to give their assent to the proposals which these Powers have put forward for a settlement of the difficult state of affairs which has arisen, they have from the first regarded them as a minimum. In view of the approach of the season when the climate will no longer offer an obstacle to military operations, it is to be earnestly hoped that no time will be lost in giving effect to the necessary measures. In the case of these reforms not proving effectual, it is not beyond the scope of the Governments concerned to suggest other remedies. Indeed, His Majesty's Government have specially reserved to themselves the power of suggesting further reforms. I would especially invite your Lordships' attention to the project of a reorganised gendarmerie under a General of foreign nationality, in the service of the Imperial Ottoman Government, to whom military officers of the Great Powers will be attached. Your Lord ships will 8 readily realise that the better administration of Macedonia constitutes an important factor in the maintenance of European tranquillity, and it is our duty and our interest to express an earnest hope that the measures recommended by Russia and Austria-Hungary may prove to have in them that which is essential to the good government of the races subject to the Porte.
As regards Thibet, the House is aware that last autumn a mission, with an escort to secure its safety, was despatched by the Government of India to meet Thibetan and Chinese officials, with a view to securing the future observance of the Articles of the Convention of 1890, and the trade regulations arranged under Article IV. of that Convention. The policy involved in the mission, I need scarcely assure your Lordships, is not to acquire territory, neither is it conceived in any aggressive spirit. The object in view is to obtain assurances that treaty obligations will be observed and that encroachment may not be renewed. I would recall to your Lordships that we have formerly had occasion to complain of aggression on the part of the Thibetans. I refer to the invasion by them of Sikkim in 1886. An aggressive attitude has again been adopted. Our representative has been treated with insolence; boundaries have been ignored; treaty obligations have been ignored. Your Lordships will easily recognise that His Majesty's Government have had no alternative but to seek and to insist on reparation. It is well known to this House how necessary—how essential it is in the East that we should claim and maintain rights which belong to us as the fruits of fair negotiation, and never for a moment tolerate that our representative should be treated lightly, far less subjected to indignity.
The next subject which claims the attention of your Lordships refers to our colonies. The House is aware that for many years past our Australasian Colonies—true to their inherent instincts of loyalty—have not allowed us to be alone in our maintenance of an Imperial Navy. But that which has been deemed by them in the past to be sufficient for that purpose, is now found not to be adequate to their self-imposed duty, 9 and we observe—and observe, my Lords, I think with great pride—that our colonies are anxious and willing to increase their material support to the Navy. Whereas Australia and New Zealand before this date have only jointly contributed £126,000, they have now agreed to double their contribution. The mention of New Zealand, that Colony whose watchword is "Forward" in all that is patriotic, leads me to ask permission here to advert to another striking proof of the Imperial mind of that Colony. I refer to the Act passed in November last in the Colonial Legislature for the purpose of encouraging trade within the British Empire. That Act imposed duties of a very substantial amount upon foreign imported goods, and in one case—that of tea—entirely remitted the duty on that commodity when grown within the British dominions, whilst placing an additional equivalent duty on the foreign grown article.
My Lords, it has been truly said that times change and we change with them, and I would ask your Lordships to consider the application of the aphorism to our own case. For during the reigns of two Sovereigns the populations and necessities of these Islands have waxed and multiplied so exceedingly that probably those who formerly saw a sufficiency of existence within the area of these Islands would surely now, under changed and magnified conditions, share with us what has been so aptly described as "the dream of Empire." That dream, my Lords, has not been a dream which has been dissipated with the dawning day, for, unlike most dreams, it has found its realisation, and to-day it must be acknowledged by all subject to this Crown that there is a common tie which binds our colonies and ourselves to the Alma Mater here. And in this there is perhaps no finality. For who can say where a present controversy, which is now being discussed, not only through the length and breadth of the Empire but also throughout the civilised world, may eventually lead us? This theme offers a tempting subject for discussion, but I feel that I should be wanting both in respect to your Lordships' House, and also in regard for the rules of debate were I to pursue it further; 10 but may I say that I do not believe that we have yet arrived at the final and ultimate destiny of our Empire.
In turning to the domestic topics foreshadowed in the Speech, the all important question of Army reform presents itself. Some comfort may be derived from the knowledge that the experiences which the late war have produced have been exhaustively examined by Lord Elgin's Commission, which collected a mass of material unique in our military annals. As one of the consequences of the Report of that Commission, the Prime Minister appointed a Committee, composed of three distinguished gentlemen, who have been engaged in elaborating a scheme of War Office reform, based on the lines of the Admiralty Board, the result of whose deliberations have now been before your Lordships for the last twenty-four hours. It would seem that, whatever the ultimate effect may be, their recommendations must appear to your Lordships at any rate to be thorough. They have recommended, amongst other things, besides a supreme direction in the Committee of Defence, the institution of a new Army Council which will terminate the inconvenience attaching to a system of dual control at the War Office.
There will be no difference of opinion amongst your Lordships that there is always more and more need for increased efficiency with regard to our Army. Notwithstanding a general feeling of admiration and respect for every unit of the British Army, whether at home or beyond the seas, still, with the experience of three years which we leave behind us of uninterrupted warfare, and with a prudent estimate of the future with its rumours of wars and possible wars, we should be doing an injustice not only to ourselves but also to that Army and that Empire, were we not to avail ourselves of this and every opportunity to add efficiency to our military system, and lay an adequate foundation to meet the unknown possibilities with which a world-wide Empire like ours is constantly brought face to face. In this connection perhaps it may be permissible to recall the oft-quoted platitude that on the efficiency and preparedness of our arms must to a 11 very great extent depend the success of our diplomacy. It behoves us, moreover, never to forget that scarcely a year passes hut that some portion of our Army is called upon, not only to be ready to act in support of our diplomacy, but also to act in defence of our possessions, wherever they may be.
In calling the attention of your Lordships to the subject of Alien Immigration, the House will recognise the advent of an old friend. We must all acknowledge, my Lords, that the problem has become an exceedingly serious one. This view is supported, not only by the condition of our labour market at the present minute, but also by the action of the Legislatures of some of the most progressive civilised countries of the world, as well as by the fact that in this country for many years past the subject has received the close attention of successive Governments. I do not wish on this occasion to enlarge on that aspect of the question or to refer in detail to the various inquiries and reports which will be in the recallection of your Lordships, but noble Lords will not lose sight of the fact that as a direct consequence of other nations having prohibited the influx of workers without any possible means of support and with no prospect of employment, we have naturally become the recipients of those who are found undesirable to other countries—countries quite as industrial as ours, and, moreover, many of them with virgin possibilities, in which respect they have an advantage over us with our congested and growing population and limited area of expansion.
There is another aspect of the question to be submitted to the House. It must be remembered that many of these immigrants arrive on our shores, not only without resources, but even without an elementary knowledge of our language, and are naturally attracted to our great centres of commerce. What, my Lords, is the consequence? It would appear to be that some few are fortunate enough to obtain employment, largely by underbidding our labour market, whilst others, finding themselves without knowledge or necessary information for procuring their daily bread, and driven to despair by hunger and hardship, lapse to the inevitable goal of criminality. These few 12 remarks may be sufficient to allow your Lordships to perceive that there is ample justification for the legislation promised by His Majesty's Government. Turning to the Bill to amend the Workmen's Compensation Acts, I would submit to the House that the whole history of a workman's security for his stock-in-trade, which perhaps it is un- necessary for me to define as his labour —be it skilled or unskilled—has gradually been built up on liberal and equitable lines to its present state, and it will be well to remember that up to now provision has been made for all workmen engaged in dangerous trades, who, through no fault of their own, have become what has been termed "the wounded soldiers of industry." Heretofore these principles have been deemed sufficient as applying to a large number of workpeople, though not to all. But experience and the forward tendency of the age have shown, and are showing us daily, that a further step in advance may legitimately be adopted. It has become apparent that there are others who, although not exactly to be included in the radius of what were formerly known as dangerous trades, are yet entitled to protection by legislation. There are working men who in the pursuit of their daily task constantly incur risks as dangerous and frequent as do their more fortunate fellow-workers who have hitherto received the benefits of the Acts. Surely we are justified by such a consideration in our contention that the time has come to perfect and complete a measure which it has been deemed necessary to refer for examination and report to a Departmental Committee of the Home Office because it does not at present fully meet the case for which it was designed.
In passing from a subject affecting the prosperity and safety of the working classes, your Lordships will observe, on reference to the Gracious Speech, another subject affecting the moral and material welfare of those classes. I refer to the mention of a Bill to amend the law of licensing. Such a measure will be welcomed by all who do not push their convictions—however honestly and ardently cherished—beyond a judicious limit. The publican, in the absence of proved misconduct, 13 has the right to pursue his calling—a lawful calling—without undue harassment. It is rather the tendency of the fanatic than of the well-balanced reasoner to invoke the fires of Smithfield to purge what he deems to be heresy. Your Lordships —in your desire for temperance—would be the last to argue that the grant of licences should be unchecked. But in dealing with a subject which gives rise to so many divergent views, the only rule of safety appears to reside in holding fast to a principle. My Lords, the principle which I think will commend itself to this House is that it is not in accord with the dictates of common honesty or justice that any man engaged in the liquor trade should be dispossessed of the means of earning his livelihood unless on proof of gross misconduct. Your Lordships may have an opportunity of observing later in the session that His Majesty's Government have not been unmindful of this principle. In conclusion, I beg to tender my most respectful thanks to your Lordships for the kind way in which you have listened to my remarks.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne."—(Earl Fitzwilliam.)
§ LORD HYLTON
My Lords in rising to second the Address, and to speak for the first time in this House, I, too, must ask for your Lordships' indulgence. Before attempting to discharge the duty which has been imposed upon me, I should like, in a few words, to refer to the great loss which the country and the House have suffered since Parliament was prorogued, by the death of the late Marquess of Salisbury. Others infinitely more qualified than myself will probably speak on this subject, but those who merely had the advantage of listening to him in this House, cannot fail to retain a lifelong impression of the wisdom of his utterances, the dignity of his address, the keenness and polish of his wit. And anyone who, like myself, has had some slight experience in the Diplomatic Service will, I think, feel convinced that his name was held in higher respect in every foreign country than that of 14 perhaps any other Englishman for more than one generation.
There is one other topic to which I will still more briefly allude. A change has just taken place in the Leadership of this House. Speaking from these Benches one cannot forget the deep debt of gratitude which our Party owes to the noble Duke, the late Leader of the House. But I do not wish to say a word of a Party character on this occasion. In his capacity as Leader of this House the noble Duke enjoyed the goodwill of both sides alike, and I hope I shall not be considered presumptuous in expressing my belief that both sides alike cordially hope that he may still render great public service for many years to come, whatever quarter of the House he may occupy, whether in or out of office.
I now turn to the Gracious Speech from the Throne. With regard to the treaty signed between France and Great Britain, I think your Lordships will view with pleasure any extension of the system of arbitration as a means of arriving at a fair and peaceful solution of international disputes. The class of questions which will call for solution under the new treaty may be of a limited scope, but the principle adopted appears easily capable of enlargement: and your satisfaction in this matter will, I feel, be the greater, inasmuch as it affords a further proof of the amicable relations which happily exist between ourselves and our neighbours across the Channel. The same considerations apply to the hope expressed in the Gracious Speech of a similar treaty with Italy. Great Britain viewed with sympathetic interest the union of the Italian Peninsula under the sceptre of the House of Savoy, and the bonds of friendship which have ever since united the two countries have been lately cemented and confirmed by the interchange of visits between their respective Sovereigns. What I have said of the treaty with France and the proposed treaty with Italy applies with equal force to an arrangement with Holland and Portugal.
The conclusion or negotiation of treaties of arbitration with these European Powers affords striking evidence of the desire of His Majesty's Government to resort to this method of settling international differences. In the 15 case of one difference of this kind His Majesty's Government have given practical proof of their belief in this policy by resorting to the assistance of a tribunal, not strictly speaking an arbitral tribunal, but one independent of the diplomacy of the two countries affected. The question of the Alaskan Boundary is not a new one. In the year 1825 the Russian and the British Governments signed a treaty or arrangement by which the boundaries of the Russian possessions in North West America and of our own territories in that quarter of the globe were defined. At that time no one seems to have entertained a suspicion that doubt or difficulty could thereafter arise owing to the terms in which the frontiers were described in the treaties. The whole region was sparsely inhabited, its geography little known, and most of its territory unexplored. So far as we can judge at the present day of what was passing through the minds of the statesmen of 1825 when they signed the treaty, they signed it under the impression that they were laying down boundaries which required no further definition. Time passed; in 1867 the United States bought Alaska from Russia; a larger population became settled in some parts of this hitherto almost uninhabited country, and, in consequence, questions arose as to what was meant by the definition of the treaty of 1825. On comparing the language of the treaty with more recently acquired geographical information, it was argued that more than one interpretation might be given to its meaning, and that in more than one portion of the frontiers. Papers laid before Parliament explain these details.
It sometimes happens that the provisions of a will lead to doubts and litigation, and in the end have to be decided in accordance with what the law lays down as having been the intention of the testator. This is precisely what has happened in regard to the Alaska boundary. No one can go into the witness-box at the present day and say with certainty what the negotiations of eighty years ago intended. But an exhaustive examination of the whole case has taken place before the Tribunal 16 appointed for that purpose, and although it was so constituted that its deliberations might not have been conclusive, it was able to come to a conclusion.
The award has been favourable to the American rather than to the Canadian interpretation of the treaty of 1825. The extreme American claims have not been conceded, but the award is, undoubtedly, in favour of the American contentions rather than of the Canadian contentions. In one sense the question may be said to affect Canada more perhaps than the Mother Country, but in one sense only, for Great Britain can never feel indifferent to any matter touching the prosperity or welfare of the Dominion of Canada; and I say this, not as a vague compliment to Canadian loyalty and Canadian patriotism, but because I am sure that such are the sentiments of the people of this country towards Canada. The Colonial Secretary, in a speech to the Canada Club on the 19th ult., well pointed out that the consolatory speeches of well-meaning friends give little satisfaction to a litigant who has just lost his case—but I believe that in Canada, as well as in this country, many will be found ready to acknowledge that it is for the benefit of all parties that this question, which might at any moment have given rise to serious international differences, should have been set at rest.
With regard to the paragraph in the Speech relating to Somaliland, the House will have noticed with satisfaction the success of our troops under General Egerton —success all the more gratifying after one or two disappointments which have occurred in that region—disappointments not, I believe, owing to the strength or the character of the enemy, but merely to climatic conditions and to the want of water. Your Lordships will have seen with pleasure the statement in the Gracious Speech that Italy, whose sphere of influence adjoins our own in that region, has rendered us every possible co-operation, both by sea and by land.
Your Lordships will, I think, participate in the concern expressed in the Gracious Speech as to the differences which unhappily exist between Russia and Japan. Whilst we cannot shut our eyes to the critical nature of these 17 differences, we must all share the hope that a peaceful solution may not be impracticable and honourable to both the nations concerned. We may reflect with some degree of satisfaction on the one hand on the pacific tendencies of the Emperor of Russia, which have been repeatedly proved both by word and action ever since he ascended the Throne, and, on the other hand, on the calm and statesmanlike attitude displayed by Japanese diplomatists throughout this crisis.
I now come to the paragraph respecting Macedonia. As far back as the time of the Treaty of Berlin, the Turkish Government undertook to introduce good administration into all the provinces of European Turkey, and the great Powers who were Signatories to that treaty incurred certain responsibilities in the matter. I think it must be admitted that great forbearance has been shown to the Turkish Government, and every allowance has been made by the Powers for the grave intrinsic difficulties which no doubt attend the institution of any form of government in Macedonia which would be equally acceptable to the various nationalities inhabiting those Provinces. Your Lordships are aware that these Provinces contain an extraordinary mixture of races and creeds, which must in any case render the task of their rulers a difficult one. But, my Lords, after making every allowance for the difficulties I have indicated, it has remained the clear duty of the Powers to press for reform in this region. Reforms have been pressed upon the Turkish Government times without number. Times without number the Sultan has promised to introduce adequate measures. Unfortunately, His Majesty's beneficent intention and pledges have failed to be carried into effect. What has been the result of this failure on the part of Turkey to provide a satisfactory administration in Macedonia? My Lords, the answer to that question can best be expressed by the simple word "Anarchy," and anarchy marked by all the horrors which usually attend such a condition of affairs. If proof were required of my statement, I would refer your Lordships to the Blue-book which has just been presented to Parliament respecting affairs in 18 South-Eastern Europe, and which affords melancholy reading. The situation is aggravated by the animosity displayed towards one another by the different subject peoples.
Your Lordships will probably consider it unnecessary to endeavour to apportion the blame for the lamentable occurrences which have taken place among the various antagonistic parties. What we are concerned with is the fact that the ever increasing anarchy in this unhappy country reached such a pitch some twelve months ago that the great Powers unanimously concurred in intervention with a view to bringing about practical reform, and the task of seeing those reforms carried into effect has been entrusted to the Governments of Austria-Hungary and Russia. Your Lordships will see from the Papers laid before Parliament that the policy of His Majesty's Government has been, in co-operation with the other Powers, to urge by every possible means on the Porte the execution of the "Vienna Programme," strengthened later on by the more stringent provisions introduced after the meeting of the Austrian and Russian Emperors in October last. With regard to the more stringent provisions then adopted, I think your Lordships will give some credit to His Majesty's Government, and I would refer the House on that point to a despatch from the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Sir Francis Plunkett, dated September 29th last. I need not trouble your Lordships with all the details of the scheme of reform, but the appointment of two civil agents—an Austrian and a Russian—to act as assessors to the Turkish Inspector-General, together with the nomination of a distinguished Italian officer with the rank of General to re-organise and command the gendarmerie, form too important a feature in the scheme to be passed over in silence. These officers have now taken up their duties, and, including their subordinates, there will soon be, I believe, some 50 or 100 foreign officers distributed throughout Macedonia who will watch over the action of the Turkish troops; and this material supervision, backed up by the moral weight of the Concert of Europe, seem to attach a fairer chance of success to the present 19 scheme of reform than has been the case on any previous occasion. The authors of this scheme do not claim perfection on its behalf, but the public declarations of European statesmen have been made in its favour, and all they ask is that the public will exercise a little patience in their criticisms as to its ultimate merits.
Before passing from this subject I should like to call your Lordships' attention to the conduct of our Consular representatives in Macedonia. Exercising rigid impartiality, they have incurred dangerous enmities on all sides; two of their foreign colleagues have been assassinated within the last twelve months; their own lives have been threatened, as you will see from the Blue - book, and many of their despatches have been practically written under fire. Our principal Consuls and Vice-Consuls in the Levant are selected from a body of picked men, and the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and His Majesty's Ambassador at Constantinople would, I am sure, bear witness to the excellent services these gentlemen have rendered under exceptionally difficult circumstances. I think the House will consider that His Majesty's Government is very fortunate in being served by such excellent officers. The Gracious Speech announces a lengthy list of measures of domestic legislation. Some of them appear more appropriately fitted for discussion in another place, whilst others have been so amply and clearly dealt with by my noble friend that I do not propose to make any observations upon them. It only remains for me to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have been good enough to listen to me, and to second the Address.
§ * EARL SPENCER
My Lords, before I come to the Speech from the Throne, I must refer to some events that have ccurred since the adjournment of the House last year. The noble Lord the seconder of the Address spoke in most appropriate words of the great loss the House and the country have sustained since that time by the death of that distinguished statesman and orator, Lord Salisbury. I fully share the views the noble Lord so well expressed. Lord 20 Salisbury filled a unique position in this House—a position of transcendent power; and I am quite sure of this, that no one who has been as long as I have been in this House can forget the lucid and eloquent words which always came from his lips without an error and without check. We deeply deplore that the country has lost him. When the noble Marquess resigned the Leadership of this House, which he held with such distinction so long, he was succeeded by my friend the noble Duke, to whom reference was also made by the noble Lord the seconder. The noble Duke has not held that position very long. He has been for little more than one session Leader of this House. I venture to remind your Lordships that when he undertook the duties of that position I said that I felt confident that his high character and his high ability would enable him to fulfil them to the satisfaction, not only of his own side of the House, but of us who sit on the Opposition side. My Lords, he amply fulfilled those prophecies.
And now, my Lords, as we have his successor here to-night for the first time since he has assumed the Leadership, I hope the House may pardon me if I refer to some historical events with which his great name is connected. The noble Marquess will not be the first of his family who has been Leader of this House. Fifty-two years ago the Marquess of Lansdowne of that day stood in his place, and, on the resignation of the Government of Lord John Russell, stated that he probably would no more again in an official capacity address this House. But he did address this House on one very remarkable occasion in the same year. It was the year signalised by the death of that great warrior, patriot, and citizen, the Duke of Wellington; a most eloquent reference to that noble Duke was made by the Marquess of Lansdowne, and I will quote what the noble Marquess further said:—My Lords, I stand in somewhat of a peculiar situation before your Lordships, addressing you on this subject, because it may not be known to the greater number of your Lordships—indeed, there are not many now alive to recollect it—that the individual who has now the honour of addressing you, some forty-seven years ago, in his place in the other House of 21 Parliament when young in his Parliamentary life, was permitted and authorised by his colleagues of that time to call on that other House to do justice to the memory, and to provide for the family, of one of the greatest heroes that ever lived, and with whom alone, in the military annals of this country, the noble Duke, now no more, could be compared.I mention this because it establishes a very interesting historical connection between the noble Marquess, now our Leader, and his grandfather, who, on two occasions, at an interval of forty-seven years, moved a vote and made an eloquent eulogy on our two greatest heroes—our greatest naval hero, Lord Nelson, and our greatest military hero, the Duke of Wellington. I am sure that we who know the noble Marquess may rely with confidence on the part which he will take in this House. We know his distinguished career in Canada and in India. We know from experience the ability and courtesy with which he has conducted many controversial debates in this House, when he has been the head of two important Departments of the State. I therefore feel assured that this House will allow me to congratulate, and will itself congratulate, the noble Marquess on the position in which ho is placed, and will congratulate itself in having him as its Leader. I now come to the speeches of the mover and seconder of the Address. I have had considerable experience in this House, and I have seldom heard two more interesting speeches, or two speeches which commend themselves so much to the good feeling of the House. The noble Earl who moved the Address belongs to a very distinguished family, and I am happy to think that I can claim personal, though not political, friendship with him. The noble Lord the seconder to the Address made a singularly able, intelligent, and interesting speech. He showed great knowledge of diplomacy, and spoke in very appropriate words of many of the passages in the Gracious Speech. May I express this hope—that the desire of taking part in the public debates in this House in the future will not be damped so far as they are concerned, as I fear it has so often been, not only with young speakers but also with older speakers, by the cold and somewhat depressing atmosphere of this House?
22 I will now come to the words of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I am glad to congratulate His Majesty's Government on the four paragraphs which commence the Speech. There is no subject in which, I think, the country takes at this moment a deeper interest than the question of arbitration. This subject has come prominently before the world in recent years owing to the action of the Czar and the conferences which took place at the Hague. I rejoice to think that His Majesty's Government have been able to use this noble and humane principle of arbitration—a principle which, we may hope, will not only diminish the terrible risks of war, with all the accompanying loss of life and sacrifice of treasure, but may, if properly followed, not only by ourselves, but by other nations, possibly lead to what we all must desire so heartily, and that is the diminution of the gigantic cost of preparation for war. That is one of the considerations which, I think, is prominently now before this country. The great cost of preparation for war is sapping, to a great extent, the resources of many countries, and it prevents the development of other most important reforms. It will probably affect the great question of education, to which it is so necessary to attend at this time in this country. It may also affect other social reforms; therefore, I do sincerely trust, if the example which His Majesty's Government has set with regard to arbitration is followed, we may find it will have some permanent and beneficial effect upon this enormous expenditure, which I believe everybody, to whatever side in politics he belongs, deeply deplores.
With regard to arbitration with our great neighbours in France, I sincerely rejoice at the friendly interchange of visits that have taken place between His Majesty the King and the President of the Republic; and I cannot help thinking that this country feels deep gratitude to our august Sovereign for the great impulse and support which he has given to this friendly feeling, and I venture to say we may trace, to a great extent, to his influence the successful movement which has been made with regard to foreign countries. It is satisfactory 23 to know that the same process is going on with regard to agreements with Italy and the Netherlands, and I should be glad if the noble Marquess is able to inform us that the agreement with Italy has actually been made. I cannot also but congratulate His Majesty's Government on having successfully arrived at some conclusion with regard to the Alaska boundary. His Majesty the King has referred to that in very expressive words, and I think we may heartily rejoice, although in some respects we may regret part of the decision, if these misunderstandings which have been so fruitful of controversies in the past will now pass into the domain of history.
I now come to a subject as to which, I confess, I feel considerable regret. I refer to the war in Somaliland. On a former occasion I ventured to ask his Majesty's Government to give an explanation as to how far our troops were to go into the great desert and the waterless country which faced them. I pointed out what very grave results might follow such proceedings. I fear I was not very incorrect in my foreshadowing of what was about to take place. We have had long marches, and, I will not say reverses; but often very serious difficulties in our advance, and though now our arms seem to have been crowned with victory, the Mullah, or whatever he is called, like a will-of-the-wisp, flits in front of the troops, and there seems but little hope of catching him or surrounding him. I know we all feel great sorrow at the losses that have taken place, and perhaps I may say a word, and only one word, of great sympathy and affection to a friend of mine and a Member of your Lordships' House. We mourn the loss of his gallant son, and we sympathise most deeply with him and his friends their in bereavement. What I should like to know about this is, are expeditions farin-to a country like that essential to maintian the honour and dignity of the country, and to effect the objects we have in view? I know that negotiations with tribes of this sort are impossible; but is it impossible to occupy strongly posts round the settlements where our colonies are placed, and to defend them with the utmost strength, repelling any attack, and in that way punish these wild tribes, 24 instead of having to pursue them in the manner in which we have had to pursue the Mullah? May I sincerely trust that the reference to General Egerton's victory may be the forerunner of the close of these operations, and that we may hear that the object we have in view has now been attained, and that we shall be able to withdraw our gallant troops, who have behaved, the officers specially, with such extraordinary gallantry, from the waterless land where they have been so long? The next paragraph touches a subject of the profoundest interest to this country. We have been watching with the keenest anxiety the negotiations which have been going on in the Far East between Russia and Japan. Two years ago we had a discussion in this House with regard to that subject and the treaty; but whatever may have been thought at that time of that treaty, it would not be proper or desire-able at this moment to enter into any discussion upon it, and I shall entirely abstain from doing so. I sincerely trust that the hope held out by the noble Marquess, that the treaty would conduce towards peace, may have been, or will be, fulfilled, and that we may, before long, see removed the dark cloud which has been hanging over us, and which, though for the moment it hangsonly over the East, may spread further and come nearer to us, and that we may see Japan developing her resources in peace and harmony. Anybody reading this paragraph of the Speech would believe that His Majesty's Government have been merely contemplating what has been happening in the East without taking any part whatever in it. There is no word of what they have done. There is merely the expression of a prospective hope that power may be exercised to promote a pacific settlement. I cannot suppose that this is all that has been done. I cannot help thinking and hoping that the good and friendly offices of His Majesty's Government have been warmly and courteously given to both Powers—and, possibly, more especially to the Power with whom we have a treaty—to induce them to come to amicable terms, and to prevent a war which would be so disastrous. I hope the noble 25 Marquess will be able to explain this paragraph.
With regard to Macedonia I have very little to say. It is a question which has been long before us. The noble Lord opposite said that all we wanted was patience. I would ask your Lordships, is not our patience nearly exhausted? The first solution proposed by Russia and Austria came to no good result. Then another solution was proposed, and during a great part of last summer the most fierce warfare was going on between the Turks and the insurgents in Macedonia. I fear that when the season becomes more favourable to the movement of troops we may again see this insurrection and this lamentable state of warfare arising in Macedonia; and I therefore feel considerably disappointed that at this season we cannot have more satisfactory assurances from His Majesty's Government. But I really hope that the Government, knowing what the feeling of the country is as to the necessity of, if possible, putting an end to the disastrous condition of affairs in this part of the dominions of the Porte, will do their utmost to support the Governments who are more active in the matter in arriving at a happy solution of this great question. I shall presently refer to the latter part of the reference to the acts of the New Zealand Legislature; but let me now express my satisfaction that the New Zealand Government, and I suppose also the Australian Government, have come to a new arrangement with His Majesty's Government in regard to their contribution towards the naval forces which protect our dominions across the sea. We have always held that we were doing the duty we were called upon to do as an Imperial Power in finding for the colonies the naval forces which they required, but we also thought that the colonies ought to contribute some sum towards the expenditure on those forces. That sum, certainly, has not been hitherto a large one. The noble Earl who spoke first had the advantage of knowing what we do not know—at least I do not know—of what the colonies are now proposing to do. I congratulate the Government on having made this advance towards getting a fairer payment for the 26 work which our naval forces do in that part of the world.
I now come to the expedition to Thibet. We are promised Papers with regard to this question, and therefore I shall not go at great length into it. But there are one or two questions to which an immediate answer, I think, would be desirable which I wish to ask His Majesty's Government. The noble Earl opposite told us that this expedition has become necessary for various reasons. We shall look with great anxiety at the Papers to see what that necessity arises from. The convention of 1890 was carried out, I believe, when the noble Marquess was Viceroy of India. That Convention was made direct with the Chinese Government. Now we hear, certainly, that, "with the concurrence of the Chinese Government," this expedition has gone on; but why has the tradition that existed in India before, that negotiations should go direct to the Chinese Government, been departed from, and why have these negotiations not been made with the Chinese Government? There is another question. We know that this force is advancing into a mountainous country, a country where the utmost rigour of cold prevails. We are told that the cold there is somewhat like that which prevails on Mont Blanc. We know that the expedition has gone at the most inclement season, and, if the newspapers are correct, that it has already lost nearly the whole of the animals of transport. I want to ask what is the pressing need and the wrong that we have to redress which require this force to be sent at such an inclement season? I have another point. We know that in the Government of India Act, 1858, there is a particular clause, the 55th I think, with regard to the Indian Government not using its funds for the purposes of an expedition outside its own boundaries. I want to know whether the Indian Government have taken that particular clause into consideration. Is this a mere friendly group of visitors sent by the Government of India to Thibet, or does it mean more? We hear of an escort of something like 500 going with the expedition, carrying guns and other munitions of war, and there is a large body, numbering, I believe, some 2,000 27 men, who are keeping up the communications. I am bound to say that at present the expedition seems to be much more of a military expedition than a mere friendly diplomatic visit to the natives. I do not suppose, from what I have heard and from what I have learned, that there is much danger of our troops being attacked, or, if they are attacked, of any disaster happening to them; but there is no doubt they are suffering considerable hardships and privations.
With regard to the Estimates, I do not say much. The Estimates belong more to another place; but there are important considerations which I shall touch upon presently which affect the interests of the whole country and should not be lost sight of by your Lordships' House. I read, however, that His Majesty's Government are really considering the possibility of diminishing the terrible outlay on naval and military defence which is now weighing down the country, and may in the future be a very serious drawback to our prosperity, and I sincerely trust that they may be able to effect economy in this great expenditure. I now come to the omnibus clauses with reference to administration. I hardly think there is any what I may call a great political administrative Bill mentioned. There are, I will not call them friends, because some of them I do not at all like, but there are some old stagers travelling on the Parliamentary road which we all know very well. There are the aliens; there is the question which interests so much some of my noble friends on this side of the House—the hours of employment in shops; there is the Compensation Act, and there are other proposals; but I do not see one Bill which was pressed forward last year —namely, the Bill With regard to the Port of London. There is one Bill on which I want to make some remarks. That is a Bill with regard to the necessity for re-election in the case of acceptance of office by Members of the House of Commons. I can well understand that His Majesty's Government may desire very ardently to carry this Bill. His Majesty's Government have probably had more experience in remodelling Governments than any Government within our memory, and it is just pos- 28 sible that in trying to distribute offices among its supporters His Majesty's Government have sometimes been unable to make the best selection owing to the difficulty of elections. I can, therefore, quite imagine that His Majesty's Government may desire to have the existing law altered. But we do not quite look at it in the same way. I admit that in the past the Party to which I have the honour to belong have also altered the law. I think it was their Bill in 1869 which did away with the dissolution on the demise of the Crown. There has also been a measure to render unnecessary an appeal to the constituencies on a mere change of office within the Government. But this Bill goes still further. If there is anything in the old principle that a Government should not remain in office or be encouraged if it has not the support of the constituencies of the country, that old doctrine, I think, is not quite exploded, and there will be a good many people who will still wish to see it applied.
The Bill with regard to licensing and the sale of intoxicating liquors in England is a matter of very great importance. Much depends upon the way in which His Majesty's Government frame their proposals. We on this side of the House will deprecate most strongly any attempt to deprive the magistrates of their full discretion in this matter. I do not believe that there is any case whatever to show that the magistrates have exceeded their powers; and, if this Bill goes any length to thwart the magistrates in the exercise of their discretion, that measure will receive most determined opposition from this side of the House and from our friends in the other House. With regard to the Valuation Bill, it is difficult, in the words of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, to say how far it may go. It may be a mere technical measure altering slightly the machinery with regard to the valuation authorities in their preparation of the valuation lists. If, however, it follows the lines laid down by the important Commission, of which Lord Balfour was Chairman, I can assure His Majesty's Government that we shall give it the very best consideration in our power; for, in my opinion, there is no measure so much wanted at this moment as a 29 thorough, complete, and wise reform of all matters connected with the incidence of local taxation. If the measure is of that character I do not think His Majesty's Government will find any obstructive action on the part of the Opposition.
I have now touched upon the various points which have been referred to in the Speech from the Throne. But there are other questions which have been omitted and which, in my opinion, are of the utmost moment, and ought to be at once brought before the attention of Parliament. It is a remarkable thing that in this Speech there is no reference whatever to South Africa. At the last meeting of Parliament we had constant references to South Africa. At this time last year a distinguished statesman, who was then Colonial Secretary, had not returned from his tour in South Africa. He had been there conducting most important negotiations, and he had proposed and apparently brought about the settlement of a considerable number of questions, That gave rise to Bills and to very important discussions. Parliament, I think, will demand a great deal of imformation with regard to South Africa. We want to know how far the settlement of the country is progressing, and how far the farmers who were dispossessed of their farms are settling down. We want to know what number of troops have been withdrawn from that country, and what number of troops remain there. We want also to know what has been done with regard to the financial arrangements which were discussed so much last year. What has become of those loans? What has become of a certain £10,000,000 which was to be paid towards the expenses of the war into the Imperial Exchequer, guaranteed by millionaires in the Transvaal? We hear rumours that this payment is not to be made, or that it is to be deferred. We want to know whether that is to be the case. All these questions require the attention of the Government, and explanation by them.
There is also the question of labour in the Transvaal. I cannot conceive a greater question than that. We hear that it is proposed to introduce into the Transvaal—it may be wrong, but rumour says something like 100,000 30 Chinese. What will result from that? It will completely revolutionise the labour organisation in the Transvaal, and will have a profound effect in other colonies of South Africa. We hear more than rumours—we hear reports of what has been done in the Cape Colony, where, if I am not mistaken, there is pretty nearly a unanimous opinion against this action. Not only is this a serious thing in regard to the Transvaal, but it is also a serious thing in regard to the question of federation. If this dispute arises between the colonies will it not retard this great measure which some statesmen who know South Africa well look to as the final solution of the difficulty? I wish to be clearly understood. At the present moment the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony are Crown colonies. When we deal with self-governing colonies we have a prime principle on which we base our views, and that is that in all matters of internal government those colonies are to be supreme, and they are to settle what they consider right for the prosperity and benefit of the subjects of the Crown in those colonies. I at once admit that, if this question had been submitted to a self-governing colony, and if they had decided that it was necessary to introduce this large number of Chinese labourers, then, however much one might have disliked it, and dreaded the moral and social effect of such an act, and the position in which these Chinamen themselves would be under the restrictions under which they would be placed, I certainly should have accepted the position. But how can we tell, until free and responsible government is given to the Transvaal, that they are in favour of this stupendous and gigantic step? I think this is a matter that requires the profoundest attention. It was only yesterday that we had the Papers on the subject. It is impossible in twenty-four hours to deal with a Blue-book on the subject of the deficiency of labour in the Transvaal. But I notice there is a minority and a majority Report, and I rather think- there is no mention of the immigration of Chinese labourers into Africa. I hen, we have not got the important ordinance which has been passed. I have said enough to show that this is a matter of great importance; and I should like the 31 noble Marquess to say whether I am right in the belief that the Colonial Secretary has declared, in a letter which I think appeared in a newspaper within the last few days, that he does not intend to give his assent, or to allow this great change to be effected, until full discussion has taken place in Parliament.
Now I come to another matter which has been referred to to-night—I mean the Report from the Royal Commission which was presided over by Lord Elgin. I consider that a very important and a very remarkable document. It is couched in the most moderate terms. There is no attack upon the Government, no indictment of the Government, and in some respects it even defends the Government, But anybody who studies the evidence in that Report will I think, find a most serious indictment against the Government of the day for their conduct before the war and in the early part of the war with regard to the preparations and other matters. There are some who say that this report is not sufficient, because it only deals with the preparation for the war, the ammunition, transport, and other matters up to the time of the occupation of Pretoria. There is a great deal after that which also requires consideration. Well, I do not for a moment deny that there may be something in it; but I do think that the evidence giver is a very serious matter, and that Parliament cannot for a single moment overlook it. I have heard it stated in very high quarters that we must let bygones be bygones, and that we are not to consider that which has happened in the past; we are told to let the dead bury their dead—hat we must only look to what His Majesty's Government have done and what it is now proposed to do, the changes which are probably imminent in consequence of the evidence given before the Commission. I do not subscribe to that at all. I fully admit that there have been great changes. We have, indeed, had two changes in the office of Secretary of State for War, my noble friend opposite has become Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and his successor has become—has been promoted, if I may say so, to be—Secretary of State for India. I do not think that 32 these changes should prevent us from discussing the past.
The scheme at this moment presented to Parliament, and which, no doubt, is a very important one, must receive the most careful attention of Parliament. The Report covers the whole ground, and touches what took place in the preparations for the war. No doubt the Secretary for War is chiefly responsible for a great deal that has been found fault with. At the same time there are other members of the Government who must be held responsible. There was the then Colonial Secretary who knew of our want of preparation; he knew the position we were in while the negotiations were going on. I think he very rashly rushed to conclusions the negotiations when he knew that at any moment he might have expected that his action would bring about hostile action on the part of Mr. Kruger. He is responsible; but most of all I cannot allow that we are to absolve the Cabinet from responsibility for this great default. I do not want now to go at any length into this matter; I merely raise it to show that I shall have something to say on the subject of the blame which is to be attached to the Government. My Lords, I find that there was no plan of campaign before the war began. There was a great neglect of the information placed at the service of the Government by the Intelligence Department as to the strength of the forces of the Transvaal, the amount of ammunition, and the number of the guns that they had. All this seems to me to have been overlooked. Then as to ourselves, there was an insufficient supply of ammunition, and there was an enormous number of rifles with most imperfect sights, one of the most dangerous things to be placed in the hands of skilled riflemen. Here they had given them rifles which would not shoot properly. There are many other points which can be raised against the Government in regard to the conduct of the war. The country must be shown what has been the cause of these great errors; and I venture to say that the proper responsibility should be fixed on members of the Government, and the Government itself, for what I am afraid led to the prolongation of the war, and in many cases brought about disaster- 33 and certainly enormous expense, to the country. We on this side of the House shall not lose any opportunity that we may have to bring these matters before the House, which is so well able to discuss questions connected with the military and naval forces.
I have only one subject more to which I shall refer, and I fully admit that it is a subject which is of the greatest national importance that can be brought before the country. I refer to the fiscal question. We all know that since Parliament was prorogued, in every political centre in the country, discussion has been going on on one side and the other with regard to this great fiscal question. It has been conducted with great courage on one side by one man, and it has been conducted on the other side by his opponents with great ability. Now I cannot help referring to the manner in which this discussion has been carried on. The result of the action of the late Colonial Secretary—one result—is that it has entirely transformed and changed His Majesty's Government. First of all came the retirement of Mr. Chamberlain. It was followed by the resignations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary for India. Later on came the almost more important resignation of my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire, who, during the whole of the Government of Lord Salisbury and Mr. Balfour, had been one of the strongest pillars of that Government. At the same time another distinguished member of the Government, the Secretary for Scotland, highly respected not only in this House, but in Scotland, resigned. There were certain minor changes; and I venture to say that the Cabinet which existed before these resignations took place, before this transformation, was entirely changed.
I cannot go into the question which is likely to be raised here; I shall not tonight go into detail of the manner in which these changes took place. But I shall venture to point out the remarkable changes which have taken place in the line of the argument of the principal speaker, Mr. Chamberlain, in the conduct of his great campaign. He at first argued the question as an Imperialist. We were told that we must do something to keep united with us our colonies, that 34 we must make some sacrifices to do that, in the building up of a great Empire, and that it was of the utmost importance that this policy of his should be carried out. I confess that it always seemed to me a strange time to propose that special measures should be taken to unite our colonies immediately after the marvellous loyalty, patriotism, and devotion to this country shown by so many colonies during the war. It seemed to me almost an insult to say that we were obliged by some fiscal measure to secure that loyalty which, before any such preference had been given, had already been displayed by the colonies. Well, that was the commencement. We were told that we must sacrifice something to secure this union and co-operation. Any increase in cost to the people was to be made good to the working classes in various ways. At one time it was by old-age pensions. That has disappeared. In the autumn campaign we hardly ever heard anything, or very little, about preference. Protection took its place. That was to meet the attitude of the colonies themselves. We know from many sources of information that Canada objects to give us any preference or to abate in any way her duties, because Canada considers that that would injuriously affect her manufactures.
We have heard something with regard to New Zealand. We have lately seen a very eloquent and patriotic speech made by Mr. Seddon in introducing a measure with regard to tariffs. It may be that in one respect he has offered to do something as regards tea, but in every other respect he has not abated in the slightest degree the duties against British manufactures. The remarkable thing is that what is the most striking thing in this Bill is the proposal to give reciprocity to foreign countries. This is offered to any foreign country which is willing to make a reduction of its duties. I will venture to say that one reason for this change of attitude on the part of the ex-Colonial Secretary was that he found that the only force which was a potent one with the constituencies was this question of Protection. Therefore, I maintain that Mr. Chamberlain's policy is now one of Protection. If that is so, your Lordships will understand how those with whom I 35 act, who are strongly opposed to Protection, will make every effort to withstand and defeat a policy we consider so dangerous to the prosperity of the industry and trade of this country, and which will bring such difficulties on the working classes by increasing the cost of food and of necessaries of life. I wish to press on His Majesty's Government that they should declare their position. We have had statements from the Prime Minister, statements in which he has said he was quite ready to alter the fundamental fiscal position which has prevailed through generations, and what does this mean? Does it not indicate a wish to return to Protection? I am aware that he has said he is a free trader; but I cannot see how he can retain that character. He has given his benediction to Mr. Chamberlain's policy, but he has said we must not be in too great a hurry. He thinks it would be premature to adopt this policy now, that caution must be used in advancing on the lines of Mr. Chamberlain's policy, but he certainly does hold out a hope that at some future day, when the country has been prepared by the advocacy and the propagandism of Mr. Chamberlain, it may adopt preferential duties with our colonies, adopt the taxation of food; and there are those who support Mr. Balfour who would conform to that.
But is that the policy of His Majesty's Government? If we look to members of the Government we find various opinions expressed. We find these opinions of the Prime Minister, which, on the whole, are distinctly favourable to Mr. Chamberlain, supported by the new Colonial Secretary and others—I am not sure whether my noble friend opposite, the Minister for Agriculture, supports that view. On the other hand, there are Ministers who have repudiated that policy most distinctly; there is the noble Lord, now Postmaster-General, who made a most remarkable speech the other day, in which he said that though he was a supporter of Mr. Balfour, he would not remain in the Government if the Government took up anything like a policy involving taxation of food. Other Ministers have expressed similar views. But what is the Government policy—for a policy they must have—on this great 36 question? It is impossible for a Government to remain without a clear and distinct declaration of their position. This is a point I would like to put to your Lordships—is it right that a policy should be dangled before the country, should be held in suspense for a long time? The Prime Minister has said it cannot be decided for some time, and there is an idea that not one election can decide it. Will not this hesitation have a very injurious effect on the finance, the commerce, and the industry of the country? There are continual declarations from the President of the Board of Trade and others that the trade of the, country is declining, but I am convinced this is an entirely erroneous view, and that trade was never more prosperous in this country, though I admit some changes may be necessary, for we have to meet a keen and active competition from other nations, and must look to ourselves and see that we are fully armed for the struggle. The people of this country must be fully educated to meet this competition, but I cannot believe or admit that the trade and prosperity of this great country is on the wane. Such declarations cannot but be detrimental to the interests of this country abroad, and also at home. This is not agreed to by some who say the change is so far off that it does not affect the people at the present time, but I venture to think it must have a serious effect on the trade and industry of the country. I trust that very soon we shall have a decision that will remove all doubts that exist. I very earnestly appeal to His Majesty's Government to declare themselves on this subject. I understand the position taken up by Mr. Chamberlain. It is quite clear; but I defy anyone, however ingenious, however able, to understand the position of the Government. I appeal to them to make their position clear. It is their duty to do so. Though this is a matter that should principally be debated in another place, we shall not here sit quiet, but take every opportunity we can—and we hope we may not be entirely without support from some Members on the other side of the House whose patriotism will come before their adherence to Party—to bring this question before the country, if possible to awaken 37 the people to a proper sense of the stupendous effect this great change would have on the prosperity of the country.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of LANSDOWNE)
My Lords, before I address myself to the controversial matters with which the noble Earl 'has dealt in the course of his speech, there is one subject upon which I will ask to be allowed to say a very few words. It was touched upon by the noble Earl and also by the noble Lord who seconded the Address. I refer to the great loss, the irreparable loss, this House has sustained by the death of the late Lord Salisbury. It has been truly said his position in this House was unique. We think of him as a great statesman, as a great Party Leader, as a great diplomatist, but to us who had the advantage of sitting with him in this House he will always appear above all things a great and illustrious Member of the House of Lords. No one ever took a more prominent part in upholding the best traditions of this Assembly, no one imparted more authority and dignity to its debates; and even towards the close of his life, when those of us who watched him closely noticed, with pain, signs of the weariness which resulted from long years of public service and responsibility, even then we listened to him as we listened to no other Member of the House of Lords. Surely we who lament him may say of him, with regret and reverence, "Oh, how much wisdom sleeps with thee." I pass from this subject in order to associate myself with the noble Earl in congratulating my two noble friends who moved and seconded the Address. I do not think I ever had the privilege of hearing what has always seemed to me to be a most difficult and most embarrassing duty performed with greater taste and ability. My noble friend the mover has had the advantage of apprenticeship in the House of Commons, and has no doubt derived benefit from the invigorating atmosphere of that Assembly. The noble Lord who seconded served his apprenticeship in the Diplomatic Service; and I must say that, as I listened to his well-chosen words and noticed the felicity with which he expressed himself, I felt that the House of Lords had gained a valuable 38 recruit and that the Diplomatic Service had lost one who would have taken a useful, I might almost say an eminent part in that profession. Both my noble friends, speaking with becoming modesty, asked your Lordships to grant to them the indulgence never refused to those who address the House of Lords for the first time, and I ask leave of my noble friends to stand alongside them for once. I cannot claim from your Lordships indulgence as a young and inexperienced Member of this Assembly, but I am reminded by what has been so kindly and considerately said by the noble Earl that I need the indulgence of your Lordships at least as much as my two noble friends. We in this House always succeed in maintaining courteous and considerate relations between those who sit on different sides of it; and I must express my thanks to the noble Earl and tell him how deeply I am touched by the kindly references he made, not only to myself, but to a predecessor of mine, who bore the name I now bear with a distinction to which I can never aspire.
I now pass to the different matters which the noble Earl referred to in the course of his remarks. The noble Earl was good enough to congratulate His Majesty's Government on the contents of the first four paragraphs of the Speech from the Throne. I feel sure that all of us will regard with genuine satisfaction the fact that so considerable an approximation has taken place between the great country which is our neighbour on the other side of the Channel and ourselves. I do not think you will find, either here or in France, that too much credit is taken to themselves by the diplomatists of either country for this happy condition of things. It is due, no doubt, partly to those courtesies which have recently been exchanged and to which reference has been made; but I believe it to be due mainly to a deep-seated conviction on the part of the peoples of the two countries that there is no real divergence between our interests, that the greatest of our common interests is peace, and that there is no greater security for the peace of Europe than that it should be desired both by France and Great Britain.
39 The Treaty of Arbitration, to which reference is made in the Gracious Speech, is a very strictly limited one, but it is valuable as giving expression to the feelings which I have just endeavoured to describe; and it has been followed by a similar Treaty with Italy, signed within the last two-days, and by a Treaty with the Netherlands, which is in course of negotiation. In the case of the United States we have endeavoured to translate into practice what in the treaties with France and Italy is laid down as a matter of principle. It is quite true that the tribunal which has lately disposed of the Alaska difficulty, was not, strictly speaking, an arbitral tribunal. It affords, nevertheless, an illustration of the possibility of settling by other than diplomatic means a long-standing and dangerous international difference. I describe it as dangerous because the frontier of Alaska might at any moment have brought us into serious and acute controversy with the United States. And for this reason, that the Alaskan frontier might have been challenged not only by diplomatic protests, but by overt acts on the part of the population which has resorted to that remote country for the purpose of pursuing the mining industry. Any serious clashing on the spot between the settlers belonging to Canada, on the one hand, or to the United States on the other, might at any moment have brought about an incident of the utmost gravity. It is therefore most fortunate that we should have been successful in removing that question from the path of our diplomacy. The result in the finding of the tribunal has no doubt not been entirely satisfactory to us, and in this respect I do not draw any distinction between the interests of the Dominion of Canada and our interests. The question at issue is a question of the position not merely of the frontier of Canada, but of the frontier of the British Empire, for the defence and the integrity of which we are responsible. But, my Lords, I do not think that any one seriously expected that we should obtain a favourable verdict on all points; and I am inclined to find some consolation in the fact that our military and naval advisers tell us confidently that the two islands in the Portland Channel which, 40 under this award were given to the United States, are of no strategical value whatever.
The noble Earl expressed disappointment that more progress had not been made in bringing about an improvement in the position of the long-suffering and misgoverned population in Macedonia. The policy of the Government has been based upon a desire to avoid a breach of the peace in Macedonia, and upon an equally sincere desire to bring about an amelioration of the condition of the population. I connect these two objects very closely, because there can be no doubt that if a conflagration were to break out in the Balkan Peninsula the greatest and most immediate sufferers would be the unfortunate inhabitants of those vilayets in which the recent disturbances have occurred. We have, at any rate, come to the conclusion that we could not do better than support the two Powers—Austria-Hungary and Russia —in the schemes of reform which they have put forward. But, as the Papers which have been laid on the Table, I believe to-day, will show your Lordships, we have spared no efforts in order to give to these schemes as much completeness as possible, and we have made it perfectly plain to all concerned that if these schemes should fail to produce the desired result, we reserve to ourselves entire liberty to take into consideration and to propose alternative and more far-reaching measures. I think we may fairly say that something has been achieved, and I trust that advantage will be taken of the next few weeks in order to accelerate the introduction of those reforms. The situation is undoubtedly an extremely grave one, and I can conceive no greater misfortune than that, either on account of dilatoriness on the part of those who are putting forward these measures, or on account of obstructiveness on the part of the Porte, we should find ourselves once more at the beginning of what may, I suppose, be called the fighting season without any real progress having been achieved in the direction which we so much desire.
In his reference to the negotiations between Japan and Russia, the noble Earl asked me whether he might infer from the language of the paragraph in His 41 Majesty's Speech that His Majesty's Government had used their good offices with the object of bringing about an understanding between the Powers. My answer to that is this. I believe it to be an axiom of diplomacy that it is not desirable to offer your good offices unless you have reason to know that they are desired. We have not been invited to extend our good offices; and it is indeed, I believe, an open secret that one, at all events, of the disputants has intimated plainly that he does not desire mediation at the present time. We have therefore, I think, been perfectly correct in advising the use in the Gracious Speech of language which shows that our desire certainly is to promote a pacific solution, and that if the opportunity of contributing to that end should happily present itself, we should be glad and ready to avail ourselves of it.
The noble Earl referred to the paragraph in which the Speech deals with the military operations in Somaliland. He expressed a very natural feeling of impatience at the manner in which these operations are being prolonged. I feel quite as impatient as he does. But it is our duty to bear in mind that the country is one in which the forces engaged have not only to contend with a formidable enemy, but with conditions of climate which render operations most arduous and most difficult. These operations in their earlier stages were certainly not wholly unsuccessful; but they were not so conclusive but that we thought it necessary to enlarge their scope and to endeavour to deal a crushing blow to the personage who has been commonly referred to as the Mullah. The noble Earl asked us why we could not establish ourselves strongly within our own settlements and avoid entangling ourselves in operations outside their limits. The answer to that is that we have not been allowed to do so. The noble Earl is no doubt aware that we not only have settlements actually on the coast, but that there are tribes immediately adjoining those settlements who have entered into arrangements with us, and who have a right to claim our protection. Beyond those tribes there lies the friendly kingdom of Abyssinia, and beyond that our East African Protector- 42 ate. It is impossible for us to allow a region of this kind to fall a prey to a Mahdi or to a Mullah, or indeed to any one who is capable of organising a fanatical movement, the extent of which it would be impossible to foretell. You may find it convenient to leave things alone and to allow the movement to develop itself, but you have always to pay for it in the long run. We at any rate have determined that these operations shall not conclude until the Mullah has been taught a sufficient lesson. The extent of the success achieved by Colonel Egerton can scarcely yet be fully gauged, but there is no doubt that he has dealt a very severe blow to the Mullah's prestige and that our position in Somaliland is at this moment infinitely stronger than it was a few months ago.
The noble Earl spoke in feeling terms of the losses by which these operations have been attended. In all such operations we pay a penalty in the shape of a long casualty list which invariably includes an undue proportion of British officers. There is no attribute of our British officers of which we have more reason to be proud than their power of leading troops and levies drawn from comparatively uncivilised countries and races. The secret of that success is this, that they never shrink from exposing themselves wherever danger is greatest, with the result that they too often pay the penalty with their lives; I am sure every Member of your Lordships' House will join with the noble Earl in offering our sympathy to a popular and much respected Member of the House of Lords who has suffered a grievous and lamentable bereavement in this recent action. It is satisfactory to know that these operations have been considerably assisted by the Italian Government, which has allowed us to make use of Italian ports, and has in particular done a great deal to suppress that pernicious traffic in arms which does so much to aggravate the difficulties of those engaged in warfare of this kind.
Then the noble Earl asked me a series of questions with regard to the mission to Thibet, and expressed a hope that an explanation would be given of the circumstances in which that mission originated. We are laying Papers on the 43 Table, and the Noble Earl will learn from them that this affair had its origin, not, as seems sometimes to he supposed, in a British invasion of Thibet, but in a Thibetan invasion of a State under British protection. That event took place some years ago. We treated the Thibetans with the utmost leniency; we did not deprive them of any territory, we did not ask them for any indemnity. All we did ask for was that they should enter into a neighbourly agreement with us, under which the frontier was to be clearly demarcated and facilities were given to persons engaged in trade across it. That agreement, so entered into, has been constantly broken; the boundary pillars have been removed, peaceful traders have been interfered with, our agents have been turned back, our letters have been returned unopened, and British subjects have been arrested and carried away. It is impossible that we should tolerate conduct of that kind, and the Government of India very properly determined to insist on obtaining a more satisfactory arrangement for the future. Then, says the noble Earl, "Why have you not been content to deal with this matter through the Chinese Government?" The answer to that is this. In 1890 we did deal with the Chinese Government, and the agreement then entered into by the Chinese Envoy, aided by a Thibetan assessor, was absolutely repudiated by the Thibetans. On this occasion, although we have again invoked the assistance of China, we have done so quite in vain. The Chinese Government began by sending down an officer of inferior rank and quite incapable of assisting the conduct of the negotiations. The Chinese representative at Lhasa endeavoured to dissuade the Thibetans from continuing their opposition, but he attempted to do so in vain. Finally, it may interest the noble Earl to know that the Chinese Government deputed an envoy to go to Thibet for the express purpose of settling these matters; that that envoy left Pekin in December, 1902, and is still on his way to Lhasa. I think, therefore, I am justified in saying that the Chinese Government are a broken reed to lean upon.
The noble Earl asked whether this Thibetan mission does not come within the purview of the 55th clause of the 44 Government of India Act. That clause runs thus—Except for preventing or repelling actual invasion of Her Majesy's Indian possessions, or under other and urgent necessity, the revenue of India shall not, without the consent of both Houses of Parliament, be applicable to defray the expenses of any military operations carried on beyond the external frontiers of such possessions by Her Majesty's forces charged upon such revenues.We do not admit that the Thibetan mission, which is described in the Speech as a political mission, is a military operation. That matter has been thoroughly considered by the Government of India, and they are satisfied that there has been no contravention of the Act. So far as the people of Thibet are concerned, Colonel Younghusband seems to have been received in a very friendly manner. The opposition he has to encounter is, we believe, entirely confined to the monks at Lhasa, who constitute the civil and religious authority in that strange country.
Then the noble Earl passed to events in South Africa, and expressed his surprise that no information was forthcoming in the King's Speech with regard to the progress of settlement in that country, the number of troops employed there, the state of the finances, and last, but not least, the question of Chinese labour. I really think that a Speech from the Throne including subjects of this kind would be an extremely unusual document. So far as the general position of affairs in South Africa is concerned, I hope the noble Earl will be content to let us discuss that question on some more suitable occasion. But I do feel called upon to say a few words in reply to his observations as to the question of the employment of Chinese labour. The noble Earl said that in a self-governing colony he did not believe that the kind of action we were about to encourage or permit would be tolerated.
§ * EARL SPENCER
Oh, no. I said that whatever is done in self-governing colonies, however much we might criticise the importation of Chinese labour, we should not interfere.
§ * THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Of course this is not a self-governing 45 colony; but it has been the desire of His Majesty's Government to deal with this question as nearly as possible as if we were dealing with a self-governing colony. That is the gist of our policy, and I think I am justified in pointing to the manner in which this proposal to introduce Asiatic labour has been supported in the Transvaal and in South Africa generally. I find that at the Bloemfontein Conference last year—a Conference at which all the South African Colonies were represented —a resolution was carried in favour of the introduction of Asiatic unskilled labour under proper Government control and on the understanding that the labourers should be repatriated at the expiration of their period of service. Then I find that the Labour Commission reported by a majority of ten to two in favour of that step. Then comes the action of the Legislative Council of the Transvaal, which decided in favour of the introduction of Asiatic labour by a majority of twenty-two to four. Finally, I find that a petition has been signed by more than half the male population of the Transvaal in favour of the introduction of Asiatic labour. Dealing as we were with a colony without self-governing institutions, we could not possibly have a greater weight of local authority in support of the proposed measure. I am afraid that the figure of 100,000 which the noble Earl gave us is not one founded upon fact. I believe that what is proposed is that 10,000 of these labourers shall be introduced as an experiment. Lastly, I have to say that the noble Earl is quite correct in stating that the Colonial Secretary has announced that nothing will be finally settled on this point until opportunity has been offered for a full discussion in Parliament. My noble friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies reminds me that the Papers will be presented as soon as possible.
Now I should like to say a few words on a question which I need not tell your Lordships has aroused a deep interest in the country and has probably a deeper interest for me than for any other Member of your Lordships' House —I mean the Report of Lord Elgin's Commission. That report—the great value of which I am fully prepared to admit—may be used either for one or 46 both of two purposes. You may endeavour to find in it the materials for an indictment of the Government which was in power when the South African war broke out. If you desire to use it for that purpose we are quite ready to meet you. The noble Earl admitted that the report was by no means a condemnation of the then Government at all points. If we are to deal with the report as an indictment of the Government of 1899, we shall ask you to confine yourselves to the terms of that report and to bear in mind, as the noble Earl has admitted, that the report is by no means one which entirely condemns us. I think I shall be able to show that on some points upon which we were most severely criticised at the time, the Commission have reported in our favour. I hope I did not correctly understand what was said by the noble Earl when he told us, as I thought, that he proposed to turn from the report to the obiter dicta of the witnesses. There is an immense amount of evidence published with the report, but I think we have a right to ask that the noble Earl should accept the finding of the Commission, and not try to qualify that finding by citations from the opinions of the witnesses who were examined by the Commission. But this historical and personal aspect of the case, interesting as it may be, painfully interesting as it may be to some of us, is not after all the most important aspect of the report. Its great value is this—that it teaches us, upon authority, the lessons to be learned from the South African war, and, as to that, I hope your Lordships will consider that we have at any rate not been slow to take advantage of the suggestions and advice which are given to us by the Commissioners. Your Lordships have already seen the report of that smaller Committee which was appointed to advise the Secretary of State as to the manner in which effect might be given to some of the Commission's recommendations; and I shall be surprised if any Member of this House is found to say that the report of Lord Esher's Committee is wanting in thoroughness or courage. We intend to act upon it so far as its main principles are concerned; and when the time comes for discussing these questions in your Lord- 47 ships' House you will have before you the facts as disclosed by the report of the Elgin Commission and a clear and distinct statement of the manner in which we propose to deal with the most important subject dealt with in that inquiry—I mean the organisation of the War Office itself.
The noble Earl, at the close of his speech, addressed your Lordships upon that fiscal question which now looms so much in the foreground of our political life. I have no doubt we shall be given frequent opportunity of discussing it, and I therefore treat the noble Earl's observations as more in the nature of a reconnaissance in force than of a frontal attack. But he made one or two observations as to which I should like to say a word. I observe that, following a course which is not very unusual on the part of his friends, he, attacked us, not for any policy which we have ourselves put forward, or to which we are in any way committed, but for the policy which has been put forward and recommended to the country by the late Colonial Secretary. I did not catch, in the course of the noble Earl's speech, any serious complaint of the policy which has been laid before the country by the Prime Minister, except that he did not think the Prime Minister had sufficiently defined it; he asked us whether we could tell him what that policy really was. I must say that I thought Mr. Balfour, in the document which he published, and in the speech which he delivered at Sheffield, followed later by a speech which he delivered at Manchester, had very successfully and completely defined the policy which we as a Government have accepted. It is the policy which is usually, for convenience sake, described as the policy of negotiation and retaliation. I have never heard that noble Lords opposite seriously contend that freedom of negotiation is not a freedom which we should be allowed to enjoy; and, as for retaliation, in all the speeches delivered by noble Lords opposite and their friends, I notice that there is always a saving clause about retaliation, and I also notice that that saving clause is always received by the audience with apparently much more enthusiasm than the other parts of their speeches.
48 The gist of the attack is that we do not conceal our sympathy with the objects which Mr. Chamberlain has proclaimed. I am here to say that I for one certainly do not wish to conceal my sympathy with Mr. Chamberlain's aspirations and objects. The aim of his policy is to draw the different parts of the Empire more closely together, to put the affairs of the Empire, if I may so say, upon a more business footing than has hitherto been the case. Is that an object which any patriotic Englishman can regard with disapproval or indifference? I certainly was under the impression that all of us, for years past, have been seeking to find some way of drawing the colonies nearer to us; and surely the present moment, when the colonies, as is shown in the Speech from the Throne, are, on their side, ready to assume a larger proportion of the burden of Imperial defence, when they are ready to give our commerce facilities which are denied to other-countries, is not the moment when we can afford to say that we will exclude altogether from discussion proposals of this kind. We admit—we have never concealed—that proposals of this kind require the most careful examination. We recognise the immense difficulties which have to be overcome before a practical shape can be given to them—difficulties which are not only of an economical, but of a political kind. And, as I have once or twice ventured to say in this House, I am not sure that the political difficulties are not more serious than the economical.
Well, in these circumstances, having explained with absolute clearness the limits of the policy which we are prepared to adopt and to recommend to the country, we say that the question of an extension of that policy of the kind proposed by Mr. Chamberlain is one with which we are not prepared to deal at the present time. Is that a very ignominious position to take up? The question is one of enormous gravity. If the reward of success in dealing with it might be great, the consequences of failure might be irreparable; and I venture to say that we are only showing common prudence when we decline to be rushed into a decision. You are always complaining of us because you suppose that we have sprung this 49 question upon you and endeavoured to rush you into a decision. Then why is it that you wish to rush us into a negative of all these proposals? If you desire time to look about you, are we unreasonable in asking for a little time for the same purpose? Our position seems to me perfectly logical, and, in the meantime, we are fully prepared to defend the policy which we have accepted; and we shall not be very much moved by the ingenious criticism which goes to show that amongst the members of the Cabinet, or the members of the Government, there may be various shades and gradations of opinion—that some of us are more sanguine and that others are less sanguine with regard to the future—so long as we present a solid front in regard to that part of the policy which we have examined and to which, as a Government, we are committed. I have endeavoured to deal with most of the points which the noble Earl has raised. I am afraid that if I had made it my business to follow him in detail on all of them I should have kept your Lordships to a late hour. It only remains for me to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have listened to me. I have, during my long period of service in this House, constantly had to take advantage of your Lordships' forbearance and generosity, and I trust that in the new position in which I have been unexpectedly placed by the events of the last few months I may look forward to the same patience and the same kindness which your Lordships have never failed to extend to mo in past years.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (The Earl of HALSBURY)
My Lords, I had not intended to intervene, but there is one topic on which I wish to say a word. I refer to the great loss which this House has sustained in the death of the late Lord Salisbury. I, who enjoyed for many years his personal friendship, feel it is impossible to remain silent and not to associate myself with what has been said by the seconder of the Address, by the noble Marquess, and by the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition. I would associate myself with those observations which have been made and I 50 feel that in saying anything about him in this House it is an idle thing to attempt to say anything of one with whom your Lordships were so familiar. He has too often exhibited the phenomena of "thoughts that breathe, and words that burn" in this House to render any words from those who appreciated his friendship and admired his genius necessary to enhance the admiration with which we all regarded him. He is a loss, I was going to say, not only to his own country, but to Europe; and I think even that would be less than the truth, because it will be true to say that the whole civilised world must miss one who was a great leader of men and of men's thoughts, and one to whose judgment and sagacity from time to time men of all countries and all races have appealed. But of him, as of some other statesmen, I think it is true to say that the extent of his loss the world does not always understand. His colleagues know better how great that loss is, because they know how much has been saved from time to time by the wisdom and sagacity with which affairs have been conducted. And it is the very fact of success that has sometimes buried in oblivion things which might have led to calamities which his wisdom and sagacity have avoided. The very fact of what he has done has buried in oblivion those things which might have led to war; and I can say most truly, that, in my view, on more than one occasion, his patience and forbearance, his tact and courage, have saved his country from what might have been a calamitous war. I will not trust myself to speak of him as a friend and colleague. No one, I believe, who ever came within the sphere of his influence has failed implicity to trust him, and no man ever trusted him in vain.
I will not be provoked into reference to the other matters which the noble Earl the Leader of the Opposition has brought before us. I could not help feeling while I was listening to him that his speech ought logically to have been followed by an Amendment to the Address, and in that case it would have been possible for your Lordships to have expressed an opinion one way or the other. But vague, general declamation against the existing Government, not followed by anything which 51 can give power to your Lordships to express an opinion one way or the other, is not a form of discussion which I think is favourable to those who have an answer to give. I have no doubt that on many occasions we shall have an opportunity of discussing all these topics, and then I shall give myself the satisfaction of occasionally replying to some of the observations which I feel to be unjust, but which this is not the appropriate occasion to discuss.
§ On Question, agreed to nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ The Earl of Morley—Appointed, nemine dissentiente, to take the Chair in all Committees of this House for this session.
§ Committee for Privileges—Appointed.
§ Committee for the Journals—Appointed.
§ Stoppages in the Streets—Order to prevent, renewed.
§ Appeal Committee—Appointed.