§ *LORD CASTLETOWN
My Lords, I beg to move that an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne. I am sure that I shall be giving expression to the feeling of the Whole House when I say how much we rejoice that Her Most Gracious Majesty has been able to accompany the King on this occasion, and that the recovery of the Princess Royal is making such progress that, unlike last year, we may trust that no sorrow in the Royal Family is present to darken the Opening of Parliament.
Your Lordships will note that the satisfactory state of affairs abroad is still maintained, and though such conditions may be duo to the able management of Foreign Affairs by the present Secretary of State, I feel that I may, with all due deference and submission, say that the Empire is being guided and preserved in ways of peace and prosperity by the careful thought and wisdom of His Most Gracious Majesty, whose pacific sway in the councils of the world is now fully recognised. The Speech from the Throne last year referred to the Algeciras Conference, and Lord Northampton, the Mover of the Address, spoke of the confidence reposed in Sir Arthur Nicolson's conduct of those negotiations. The trust reposed in that able Minister has, I think, been fully justified, and the outcome of that Conference will, I hope, result in the amelioration of affairs in Morocco, while maintaining the concert of those Powers, Spain, France, and 5 Great Britain, as most interested in the question, and at the same time helping the Emperor of Morocco to improve the status and condition of the people under his rule.
With regard to the regulations adopted for the New Hebrides, one feels that it was necessary to evolve order out of the conditions obtaining in those Islands, and the Agreement with France, though perhaps not all that both countries would have desired, undoubtedly will be useful in its effects, and leaves future issues unimpaired. Several Boundary Commissions and Agreements have been ratified and carried to a successful issue between this country and Germany and between this country and France, while Agreements have been concluded with the French and Italian Governments for the maintenance of status quoin the Dominions of the Emperor Menelik in Abyssinia. All these diplomatic arrangements augur well for the future pacific progress of the Empire and the nations with whom we are in closest contact, and the fact that so many questions long out-standing have been settled is a proof and indication that foreign affairs are going on well and satisfactorily.
The terrible calamity in Jamaica has caused, as we are all aware, a deep feeling of horror and sorrow in these islands. The suddenness of the catastrophe and the loss of so many lives among our fellow subjects have filled this country with consternation and grief, while the fact that many prominent scientists, travellers and politicians were actually in Jamaica at the time, discussing the possibility of future developments for the benefit of the island, some of whom were killed, has rendered the earthquake at Kingston peculiarly deplorable. The calm and brave demeanour displayed by the whole population was noteworthy, while the authorities deserve the greatest praise for their efforts to save life and property under the most trying ordeal to which human nature can be subjected. Jamaica and this country are deeply indebted to the United States for the prompt and active assistance rendered at this awful moment. Such kindly thoughts and acts must accentuate in the long run the feeling of true relationship which exists, to my mind, 6 between the great Republic of the West and this Empire.
The visit of the Ruler of Afghanistan to India is referred to in the Gracious Speech as having been most successful, and one that was likely to cement the friendship already existing between His Most Gracious Majesty and the Amir. In reading the report of that visit it is easy to see that His Majesty's representative, Lord Minto, an able Member of your Lordships' House, has done everything to make the sojourn of the Amir in India pleasant, interesting, and of value to both nations. One may venture to hope that the insight obtained by the Amir into the system of British Government in India, and his perception of the desire of all the authorities in that country, and notably of the Viceroy, for the welfare of our fellow countrymen of all races in that great Dependency, will indicate to him the higher motives of our Rule, while the intercourse he has held with Native Princes will imbue him with the knowledge and feeling that His Majesty and his advisers in this country desire more the well-being of India, the true liberty of her Princes, races, and creeds, ordered and arranged in accordance with civilisation, thought, and progress, than the greatest military conquests that were ever gained in the Asiatic world.
The profound care and forethought for the welfare of India and her people which is, I rejoice to say, now the keynote of our policy, is receiving the greatest attention from the Governor-General, and though there may have been local difficulties whore so many interests—religious, financial, racial—must come into conflict, the steady sympathy of the authorities in India with native idiosnycrasies, and the strong support and careful guidance from home, have facilitated successful issue and are leading to the true and proper solution of the difficulties in question.
The next paragraph in the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne I approach with a feeling of grave responsibility. How long it has taken to build up the present Constitution we all know, the working of the Constitution we are thoroughly acquainted with, and yet we all realise that there are times when some change is necessary in its machinery, with the object of adjusting some one or 7 other of its peculiarities. I use this word advisedly. It is a peculiarity that in the Second Chamber of this country—it does not obtain, so far as I am aware, in any other Second Chamber—a certain number, a large number, in fact, of hereditary legislators, who do not present themselves with regularity, or who attend very rarely through the session of Parliament, can come to this House, and, belonging as they do to one particular Party, can invalidate or destroy by their votes the legislation which may be desired by the majority of the electors of the country. Such, however, are the circumstances of the case. These difficulties or peculiarities were referred to in the Speech from the Throne when Parliament was prorogued, and it is undoubtedly the duty of His Majesty's Government to try and discover some means of relieving the deadlock caused in such cases, and thus permit the Constitution to work out its issues on the lines on which it was originally based.
My Lords, with regard to the next matter referred to in His Majesty's Speech, I am sure all the Members of your Lordships' House will agree with me in hoping that the proposal of the Minister for War which will be placed before you will be of the wide and useful character it portends to be The Army has been, if I may say so, too long the shuttlecock of parties, and the despair of politicians. Perhaps if politicians had despaired more and thought less about them the forces of the Crown would have done better. But, be that as it may, we all know the position of affairs now, and any man who wishes well to his country will be only too glad to welcome a scheme well thought out, well arranged, and, we hope, eventually well administered. What I believe the country requires is a Regular Army, able to go anywhere at a moment's notice, fully equipped and prepared. The country also demands that the defences of these islands shall be fully maintained. For this power of offence and this means of defence the country will have to pay but may not one ask that the thousands of young men who are neither soldiers nor sailors, who are not in either the Militia, Yeomanry or Volunteers, may be induced or urged to come forward and give their services for a short period of their existence to their native land? I 8 believe the scheme to be produced will deal with these points in a broad and liberal-minded manner, and will organise the military forces now at the disposal of the country on comprehensive lines.
I will now pass, with your Lordships' permission, from the more general topics of the Speech from the Throne to the particular matters which, in the shape of Bills, will be brought before Parliament, and I will take them in the order in. which they appear. The first measure is one which, I think, will appeal to your Lordships' consideration, and is in the nature of an extension of the original Crofters' Act, which, as I understand, has already worked well in Scotland. I confess that my own sympathies are very strongly in favour of any measure which will give the crofters and other small agriculturists and labourers a real stake in the land of their birth. The Report presented to Parliament in September, 1906, on the decline of agriculture in Great Britain bears eloquent testimony to the necessity of Parliamentary intervention, especially in Scotland. The map which accompanies it shows clearly where the life blood of the country is being drained, by emigration and migration, and the Report indicates where, and how the styptics which are necessary may be applied. Every day we are told there is a greater difficulty in getting agricultural labour, and every day fewer recruits of the healthy agricultural type enlist in our Army. What are the reasons for this? Emigration to the Colonies may be one. We cannot stop that, however, unless we make home life in the country as certain and lucrative as it is in far-off lands. Migration to the larger towns may be another reason. That we can only prevent by the same means, and by giving other inducements to happiness in rural social life. Both of these issues may be difficult to deal with, but all the witnesses in this Report advocate the necessity of giving the agricultural class, who are still, to my mind, the backbone of the country, the possibility of becoming, not only occupiers, but owners of the land they till.
I now come to the next measure, and it is, if I may say so, to myself and many of your Lordships who come from Ireland, the most important legislative 9 proposal we have before us. I quote the words of His Majesty's Gracious Speech in dealing with this proposal, and I do not think any more comprehensive or clear statement could have been used—Your attention will be called to measures for further associating the people of Ireland with the management of their domestic affairs, and for otherwise improving the system of government in its administrative and financial aspects.For some years past we have heard talk in Ireland of "devolution." I cannot help thinking that this word has given rise to much difficulty, and I rejoice at last to see a lucid interpretation of what is required and what is proposed. If any long word were needed to explain the advisability of some change one might call it "evolution" from chaos, and not "devolution" from constitutional government.
Whenever an Irish problem crops up those who desire to examine it must first of all study the history of that country, and they will find the germ of the problem in some old form of maladministration. That the misgovernment of 400 years cannot be remedied in forty is a true saying. The Union which took place little more than a hundred years ago had, or should have had, as its corollary, a scheme of domestic administration in Irish affairs. Like most things in the history of Ireland, the corollary has been kept back till almost too late. It is proposed now, 100 years after the Union, to improve the system of government in Ireland in its administrative and financial aspect. I welcome those words, and would implore noble Lords from Ireland to think what value would have attached to those words had they been used and rendered effective in any Speech from the Throne some forty or fifty years ago, when they and their political classes were the dominant power in that country.
Under this proposal the administration may be regulated by the votes of the whole people of Ireland. Even if this be so, I am willing and prepared to accept their governance. For the last thirty or forty years one may safely say that both parties in this country have tried, and, I believe, tried honestly, to do justice to Ireland. But I think both parties had forgotten that Ireland, owing to circumstances I need not refer to, was no 10 longer a pawn in the game of politics; that Ireland had slowly but surely grown up under the Union into a Nationality once more, though still an integral portion of the Empire. As a nation, and I say it without fear, Ireland is entitled to the administration of her domestic affairs and to a bettor system of such administration. As to her finances, we are told that the system of government in that aspect is also to be improved. I spoke in this House some years ago on the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland. At that time men of all classes and creeds in Ireland had joined a movement, of which I was a member, to ask the Imperial Parliament to investigate and deal in a liberal spirit with the financial losses which Ireland had incurred. Our pleadings for justice were, if I may say so, sneered at, and our arguments, though based on the Report and evidence of one of the ablest Commissions that has sat on this topic, were ignored. Under the circumstances I need hardly say how much I welcome this paragraph, and I only hope that when the time comes for that financial assistance to be given it will be rendered handsomely and generously, and at the same time equitably.
Before leaving this grave and serious question, may I appeal to the patriotism of my noble friends from Ireland who may distrust this measure, and ask them to be slow in rejecting it when it reaches this House? May I beg them to be jealous of the good name of their countrymen, and therefore confident in the honesty of their intentions to administer their domestic affairs for the good of all classes and creeds? I would ask them also to bear in mind that we have been told quite lately by a responsible Minister that "separation is unthinkable;" and I say that until and unless the whole aspect of the world is changed by some gigantic war, or by some cataclysm of nature, the separation of England and Ireland is politically and geographically impossible.
The proposal for effecting reform in University education in Ireland will, I trust, be carried into effect. As His Majesty's gracious Speech says, the difficulties which have so long retarded the development of higher education are at least capable of being removed, and though there may be some divergence of opinion 11 as to the scheme which will give the line of least resistance—and I would ask His Majesty's Government to consider most carefully this point—I am convinced that all sections in Ireland will now join to obtain some settlement. I have taken a deep interest in this question, and though I speak as Chancellor of a University which may be shortly placed in the crucible, I still can say with confidence and certainty that it is essential to Ireland that a National University should be created, to minister in the most efficient manner to the wants of the laity, irrespective of creed, and especially to the majority in Ireland who are Catholics, and who are entitled to that system of higher education which is consistent with their religious views.
The remaining legislation for the session will, I hope, commend itself strongly to your Lordships. The different Bills proposed are not so much of a sensational character, but rather conduce to the social and economic advantage of all classes in the community. I am glad to see that it is proposed to ask women to give us the benefit of their advice and assistance on other local bodies besides those to which they are already accredited. The great success that they have achieved to my personal knowledge on boards of guardians, and the fine work they are doing among their poorer sisters in the workhouses and factories, make one sanguine that if they are given a still wider field of action the result will be equally valuable to the whole community.
My noble friend who follows me will go more into detail on the various measures enumerated, but I should like to touch upon two other Bills to which much importance must be attached—the Small Holdings Bill for England and Wales and the Bill for the better housing of the people. The Report of the very able and expert Committee presided over by my noble friend Lord Onslow has laid down the wisdom of further experiments in this direction. To carry out those experiments legislation is necessary. As I have for many years carefully studied the question in Ireland I am quite certain that an appreciable amount of benefit will be conferred on the rural and agricultural population by enlarging the power of obtaining land for small holdings and allotments. But I would most strongly urge that when those powers are 12 sought they should be made as elastic as possible. A scheme that may suit one district may be impracticable or impossible in another. If the population of the country requires this enfranchisement, which is, I think, the case, do not tie it up with red tape and sealing wax and thus render it inoperative. It works admirably abroad, especially in relation to the improved communal system that obtains in Belgium, France, and Denmark, and also by the assistance of well-regulated people's banks. I am carrying out this scheme in my own county in Ireland, and up to now with complete success. I venture, therefore, to recommend the scheme most heartily to your Lordships. The housing of the people has a similar remedial aspect, and I do not think that political feeling should enter into this question at all, though it may be an inviting issue for the economist.
My Lords, I must apologise for the length of my speech, but the gravity of the legislative programme precluded my dealing with it more rapidly or perfunctorily. May I, before I sit down, say how deeply I deplore the loss to this House of one who has just passed away, Lord Goschen? I could not add anything to what has been said of him in the public Press. But I may say I have lost a kind and helpful friend in days gone by; this House has lost an able statesman and debater, and the State a tried and faithful servant to Crown and country. I have the honour to move.
§ THE EARL OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, in rising to second the Address I am very conscious of the disadvantages which must attend such an undertaking by one so inexperienced as myself—inexperienced not only in your Lordships' House, but also in any other Assembly which, though probably less considerate, would certainly be less formidable than your Lordships'. It is, therefore, not in any formal sense, but with all sincerity, that I ask your Lordships to extend to me a very liberal share of your forbearance and consideration.
I have been but a short time a Member of your Lordships' House, but long enough to realise to some extent the great loss this House has sustained by the death of Viscount Goschen. Others far better qualified to speak of him will do so tonight, but neither the sorrow caused by 13 his death nor the pride taken in his great career can be confined to his contemporaries or those who had the privilege of his acquaintance.
My Lords, reference has been made in the gracious Speech to the terrible disaster which has recently occurred in Jamaica. Jamaica is one of our oldest colonies and united to us by no common ties—ties which I cannot help thinking are now drawn even closer than before, on our side at any rate, by our sympathy with sufferings which, however anxious we may be to alleviate by financial or other assistance, we were yet so powerless to avert. The past year has been notable for disasters on an unparalleled scale in the Western Hemisphere, both in North and South America, by which the towns of San Francisco and Valparaiso have been demolished; but in the case of Kingston another element was present, that of a coloured race living side by side with Europeans. We were proud to note the unselfish devotion with which the "white man's burden" was taken up, and the unflinching courage with which the responsibilities of Empire were borne by the authorities of Kingston. It is a pleasant task to try to express to that great friendly nation, the United States, our heart-felt thanks for the generous manner in which their naval forces came to the assistance of the inhabitants of Kingston in their need, a generosity made doubly precious by that characteristic which belongs pre-eminently to America, that of promptness.
Licensing reform is foreshadowed in the gracious Speech. Your Lordships will admit that this is a very difficult question, but I think the Act of two I years ago could only be expected to lead to further legislation on the subject. I feel convinced that the Government will approach the matter with a broad-mindedness that will enable them to deal with it to the best public advantage without pressing unduly on a certain section of the community.
My Lords, with regard to the paragraph in the gracious Speech relating to the new Army Scheme, I do not think it is necessary for me to add anything to what Lord Castletown has already said, except to express the hope—I might almost say conviction—that when Mr. Haldane's scheme is made known in detail, we shall see that much has been 14 done for the Volunteer force, and that at last they may have the satisfaction of feeling that they are an integral part of a great scheme for the defence of the country. With the increased facilities for rapid transit at sea we are deprived to a certain extent to-day of the protection which that bulwark provided in the past through what I may call the unkindly elements. To day, in an age of steamships which can accommodate 5,000 men, of guns whose range is half the width of the Channel, there may be no time for hasty preparation and no use for improvised forces. It is, therefore, most necessary that every unit of our Volunteer force should be allotted its share in defence and be maintained in a condition to repel a raid at short notice.
The first Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech is one to establish a Court of Criminal Appeal. This Bill is already well known to your Lordships. Although we pride ourselves in this country, and, we believe, with reason, on our administration of justice, it is yet a regrettable fact that on a few occasions in the past innocent persons have been convicted of grave criminal offences and unjust sentences served by the guiltless. One cannot help feeling that it is a curious state of affairs which allows a man to appeal against a decision involving the loss of £100, but does not allow him that appeal against a decision involving the loss of his liberty or even his life. The intense repugnance in the minds of all Englishmen to the possibility that any man should suffer punishment for a crime that he has not committed, has awakened a demand for the creation of a Court in which a reconsideration of a conviction, on a serious criminal charge, can take place.
We then turn to the Bill for regulating the hours of work in mines. Your Lordships are doubtless aware that a Bill to provide for an eight hours day in mines was read a second time in the House of Commons last May. That Bill proposed that the hours for labour in mines during 1907 should be nine, eight and a half in 1908, and eight hours in 1909. Considering the very arduous character of the work and the very depressing circumstances under which it is carried on, I do not think that this is an unreasonable proposal. It is held that the physical strength of the miner would be so much 15 improved by the shorter hours and the longer period that he would spend in the light of day, that the output of coal would either remain the same or even increase, notwithstanding the shorter hours of work.
I believe, my Lords, that there is room for great improvement in the present Patent Laws. It is complained that the machinery of the present law is complicated and costly, and also that a large proportion of patents taken out in the United Kingdom are merely obstructive and are not worked in this country. If this Bill is successful in simplifying the working of these laws and giving greater facilities and encouragement to genuine invention, I feel sure it will be warmly welcomed in your Lordships' House.
I turn next to the Bill for extending the system of cheap trains for workmen. In connection with the London housing problem, the Royal Commission on Locomotion in their Report advise that in order to relieve overcrowding it is absolutely necessary that cheap workmen's trains should be extended in all directions instead of only in a few, as now obtains, and the Government—
§ THE EARL OF CHICHESTER
I believe, my Lords, that at the last moment that Bill was not included. The next Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech is one to amend the law relating to the valuation of land in England and Wales. I do not think anyone who is an owner of land will feel inclined to quarrel with a Bill which has as its object the equalisation of rateable values. The burdens borne by land owe half their vexatiousness to their variety, land in one part of the country bearing burdens unheard of in another. I cannot help expressing the pious hope that it may be found possible to relieve agricultural land of some of its present very heavy burden.
I do not think anyone who has worked on local bodies, such as boards of guardians, with women, and knows what excellent work they are capable of doing, will be sorry to hear that the Government intends to bring in a Bill to widen their sphere of usefulness. 16 There is much work to be done by various local bodies which can only, from its very nature, be suitably performed by women. I cannot help feeling that the county councils and district councils will gain both in experience and in efficiency by the inclusion of women among their members.
My Lords, I think that very great satisfaction will be felt that a Small Holdings Bill is included in the gracious Speech. That satisfaction will, I believe, be two-fold: first, on account of the benefit to agriculture; and, secondly, on account of the benefit to the rural community. So much capital until recently engaged in agriculture has been either totally lost or else diverted into other channels that it is increasingly difficult to find tenants with sufficient capital to take the big farms as they were originally laid out. The consequence is, at any rate in certain parts of the country, that land which used to support several farmers, now only supports a very much smaller number, who work several farms together and adopt a mode of culture requiring the minimum of labour; or else the land is occupied entirely for pleasure purposes with no idea of getting a living out of it, and probably under those circumstances the occupier uses even still less labour.
But with regard to the rural community, one cannot help hoping that the effect of a Bill of the kind foreshadowed in the gracious Speech will be still more marked. Something must be done not only to check the rural depopulation, but what is perhaps more important still, to check the steady flow of all that is intelligent and full of life from the villages. Why is it, my Lords, that agricultures no longer attracts the best of our rural population? The answer always given is that they cannot resist the attraction of the great cities, the charm of varied amusements, the life and stir of the streets. That may be true, but I do not believe it is the whole truth. My Lords, if education has achieved anything it is this. It does implant in certain natures the desire to rise, and it is this desire to get on which drives the keener spirits out of agriculture, not necessarily into the towns, but into other pursuits where there is a chance of merit and energy getting to the top of the tree. In the part of England I know best such 17 young men go on to the railway or into the police; but these are the men that we want to keep on the land, and it appears to me that a Bill making it possible for a man to acquire or lease a small amount of land to work himself is, in certain districts, at any rate, the way to bring this about.
The possibility of possessing land, however little, is dear to the heart of most Englishmen, and such possibility would make village life more full of hope and interest than it is to-day. There is much truth in the saying, "Give a man the freehold of a barren rock and he will turn it into a garden; grant a man the seven years' lease of a garden and he will turn it into a desert." Experiments have already been made in the direction of small holdings, and the success that these experiments have met with has led the Departmental Committee, of which Lord Onslow was the chairman, to recommend that further experiments of the same nature be made over a larger area.
The next Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech is one respecting the housing of the people. There is little doubt that fresh legislation is wanted on the subject. Much has been done in London, but the work of clearing away slums is very slow. Moreover, houses are continually being built under such conditions of overcrowding that, in the future, municipal authorities will be faced by the same problem unless strong measures are taken now. It is estimated that there are still over 250,000 people in London who are one-room dwellers, and what is true of London applies to most of our great cities. With regard to the housing question in rural neighbourhoods, the impossibility of building cottages to pay a reasonable return on the outlay will, without further legislation on the matter, make the difficulty of settling people in any number on the land an insuperable one. Considerable sums of money have been lent by the Treasury through the Public Works Loan Commissioners from time to time for the purpose of erecting workmen's dwellings; but your Lordships' will recognise the difficulty there is at present in lending public money for the erection of cottages in new districts where the demand for labour may not be constant. The question of security in these cases becomes a serious one.
18 The entire absence of one topic from the gracious Speech is to be noted with the greatest satisfaction. There is happily, no need for any reference to war in any part of the world. I cannot help contrasting the topics discussed to-day with those in the speech made by my grandfather just seventy-nine years I ago in moving the Address. That speech contained regrets for battles in the past, accounts of wars that were then raging, and suggestions for warlike alliances in the future, and no mention of domestic legislation whatever. Under the present happier auspices perhaps it is not unreasonable to hope that much of the legislation foreshadowed in the gracious Speech may pass into law. My Lords, it only remains for me to thank you most warmly for your patience and forbearance, and formally to second the Address.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne."—(Lord Castletown.)
§ *THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, I am sure that noble Lords who sit on this side will permit me to express the satisfaction with which we listened to the well-chosen words in which both the noble Lords who have just addressed us referred to the loss which this House has sustained by the lamented death of Viscount Goschen. Lord Goschen brought to this House a rich fund of knowledge and experience of the most varied character. As a financier, as a political economist, his reputation stood high. He had a distinguished record as an administrator charged with the management of great public departments. He was not unknown in the field of diplomacy. If I might venture to single out one of his distinguishing characteristics, I should say that we respected him above all on account of the fearlessness and sincerity of his character—a fearlessness and sincerity which he never failed to display, whether he was fighting on the winning or on the losing side. We can ill afford to lose such a man. Only those who had the good fortune to know him as a friend and a colleague can say how wise a colleague or how true a friend they have lost.
My Lords, our veterans pass away from us one by one, and their places are 19 taken by younger men, and on these occasions it is usual for the Government of the day to give an opportunity to those who have, so to speak, still to win their spurs in our debates. But we can scarcely regard my noble friend the mover of the Address in the light of a novice, for he has been for some years a Member of this House. Indeed, I think ten years have passed since the occasion to which he referred in his observations, when he endeavoured to persuade Parliament to effect a radical alteration in the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland, and to establish an Irish Consolidated Fund to provide for Irish agriculture, Irish railways, and Irish industries. I am afraid he was not successful in softening the hard heart of my noble friend who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I may, perhaps, congratulate him on having, at last, stumbled upon a softer spot. My noble friend and the noble Lord who followed him addressed your Lordships with much ability, and we listened with interest and pleasure to their speeches.
I come now to the gracious Speech. The references it contains to foreign affairs are extremely brief. We learn that the relations of his Majesty's Government with foreign Powers continue to be friendly. That is a refrain to which we cannot listen too often, and I congratulate the Government upon being able to find a place for it. In other respects the Speech is singularly meagre in its references to foreign affairs. That is to some extent no doubt explained by the reference which is made to the Speech delivered by His Majesty at the close of the last session of Parliament. In that Speech, it is quite true, we find a considerable catalogue of important international arrangements, to some of which my noble friend referred. I, for one, regard the conclusion of these international arrangements with feelings of the greatest satisfaction. They seem to me to enforce a principle which we cannot too constantly bear in mind. I mean the principle that, when great civilised Powers have, or conceive that they have, conflicting interests in remote parts of the world, they should endeavour to adjust those interests by a reasonable and above-board settlement rather than by resort to the 20 old expedient of intriguing against one another and instigating third parties to make mischief for their supposed advantage. The Abyssinian agreement is one which seems to me to come within the category of such desirable conventions.
I may also say, as regards the agreement between Great Britain and France as to the New Hebrides, that I had always hoped to see such an agreement concluded, and that to my mind it was inevitable in present circumstances that it should be based upon the admission of a joint French and British protectorate over the islands. I do not believe that any of the other solutions proposed were within our reach. We have lately had a Blue-book upon this subject presented to us; and I cannot help observing that whatever we may think of the terms of the Convention, it is a matter for regret that it should have been concluded under circumstances which loft the Australian and New Zealand Governments under the impression that they had not been adequately consulted in the matter. They are under the impression that the Convention was, so to speak, carried over their heads, and they say that virtually they were not aware of its terms until they were announced in the newspapers. My Lords, that is unfortunate, and I cannot help being sorry that more pains, were not taken to avoid such a misunderstanding.
The Blue-book is an interesting one, and it is particularly interesting to me, because I find in the Anglo-French Convention an elaborate scheme of indentured labour for these islanders bearing a strong family resemblance to the much vilipended conventions and agreements which regulated Chinese labour in South Africa. The people of the New Hebrides certainly require all the protection we can give them. They are a very primitive people. I find in the Blue-book a description of their mode of life. They are so primitive that each little tribe lives in its own island or group of islands, and is described as having scarcely any dealings with their neighbours except when they require a neighbour as an article of food. It is quite clear that an untutored people of this description stand in need of a good deal of protection; and therefore it was 21 with some surprise that I found the Australian and New Zealand Governments objecting to the terms of the Convention sent to them by His Majesty's Government upon the ground that its provisions were not an adequate deterrent to the unscrupulous methods of the recruiters. That is a striking resurrection of the old Chinese grievance in another locality.
Well, my Lords, if the gracious Speech says very little about foreign affairs, it says also very little about Colonial affairs. There is one Colonial subject which I confess I should have thought worthy of mention in the gracious Speech; I mean the fourth Colonial Conference which is to be held this year, and which certainly will not be the least important of the series. That is a somewhat remarkable omission, and I am inclined to say that we should have been rather glad to know a little more of the frame of mind in which His Majesty's Ministers are about to approach this Conference. We know that these Colonial Ministers are coming here with the hope of doing something to draw the different parts of the Empire more closely together. We know that the method which finds most favour with them is the encouragement of Imperial trade. Within the last few days some light has been thrown upon the manner in which this subject is regarded by His Majesty's Government. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies told his audience the other day that at the discussions of the Conference there was to be no restraint—I should have been very much surprised if there had been any restraint—and that it was to be open to the Colonial delegates most freely to put their case with all the force of argument they could command. He went on to say that he was in favour of this free discussion because it was calculated to bring about inter-Colonial free trade. But, my Lords, I do not know that it is necessary for the Colonial Ministers to meet here to make arrangements for inter-Colonial free trade, and I should have been rather glad to know whether all proposals for the establishment of freer trade within the Empire were to be ruled out of order when this Conference meets.
The Speech contains a reference to the great calamity which lately overtook Kingston, in Jamaica. The news of that disaster was received here with 22 feelings of the deepest consternation and sympathy. There were incidents which for a moment threatened to be the cause of friction. Those incidents, I am glad to say, are now forgotten, and we think only of the self-control exhibited by the population, of the generous impulse which led the American naval authorities to offer their assistance, and of the devotion and energy exhibited by Sir Alexander Swettenham and the officers under him.
I pass for a moment to the reference to India. We look certainly in these days with no diminution of pride upon our Indian Empire. It may have lost something of the splendour and picturesqueness which used to make it so attractive, but we reflect with pleasure that there never was a time when the Indian Empire was based upon a more solid foundation of prosperity, or when the peoples included within it regarded our rule with a greater measure of acquiescence. But the gracious Speech contains a paragraph which is rather remarkably worded and perhaps a little enigmatical upon this subject. We are told that His Majesty, while firmly guarding the strength and unity of executive power unimpaired, looks forward to a steadfast effort to provide means of widening the base of peace, order and good government among the vast populations committed to his charge. Perhaps the noble Marques will be able to tell us whether that is merely the expression of a general sentiment, or whether we are to regard the paragraph as portending now legislation of a far-reaching description and affecting, the foundations of government in India.
Upon the visit of the Amir of Afghanistan to India we can sincerely congratulate His Majesty's Government. I am sure the noble Marquess will agree with me when I say I am very far indeed from regarding that visit as being a mere parade movement. On the contrary, I believe it to be a very significant visit, and I trust that what it does mean is that the Indian Government have succeeded at last in dispelling that feeling of suspicion with which undoubtedly for many years, the ruler of Afghanistan regarded the Government of India. May I be permitted to add my congratulations to Lord Minto? Many of us who know him well have long recognised that he possesses qualities which we may be 23 quite sure had a great deal to do with bringing about this successful visit and the good results which, I feel confident, that visit is likely to produce.
I now pass to that part of the Speech which deals with the work lying before Parliament during the session which we are beginning to-day; and I find, in the first place, words indicating plainly that His Majesty's Ministers have in view measures profoundly affecting the relations of this House with the other House of Parliament. The wording of the paragraph is grave, and I may perhaps add oracular—My Ministers have this important subject under consideration with a view to a solution of the difficulty.We are left in entire ignorance of the direction in which that solution is to be sought. One thing I will say, which is, that the tone of this sentence is in agreeable contrast to some of the references which have lately been made to the subject by Ministers and their friends. We have read speeches referring to this House in which the whole gamut of denunciation has been run through. Even the noble Earl opposite, the President of the Council, whom we usually regard as a model of correct Parliamentary deportment, has been affected by the contagion of some of those with whom he acts, and delivered the other day a speech in which, although the metaphor was a little confused, he suggested that somehow or other in the conduct of our business the House of Lords had been in the habit of using loaded dice and marked cards.
Even the late Chief Secretary for Ireland, an Ambassador designate, was unable to resist the temptation, and thought it necessary to fire a parting shot at this House of Parliament. My Lords, that was "the unkindest cut of all." I happened to stumble the other day upon a passage from a speech delivered by Mr. Bryce in the House of Commons not so many years ago, in which he pointed out that—The object of having two Chambers is to secure, not that things shall always work smoothly between them, but that they shall frequently differ and provide the means of correcting such errors as either may commit.We differed, and we tried our hands at correcting. Is it not hard that the Ambassador-elect, who, as we all know, 24 is a high authority on constitutional subjects, should visit us with the chastisement of his indignation?
We are told that this revision of the Constitution is necessary because there have been "unfortunate differences between the two Houses." I do not think that it requires very much ingenuity to discover that the reference is to the rejection of the Plural Voting Bill last year, and to the fact that this House insisted upon its Amendments to the Education Bill, and that thereupon His Majesty's Government dropped that measure. I say that is a fair inference, because, to the best of my belief, when His Majesty's Ministers were making their appeal to the country at the time of the general election, authority to deal with the House of Lords did not form any part of the mandate for which they asked. Therefore, if it is now necessary to revise the Constitution in this manner, it must be because of something that has happened since the general election. Now, my Lords, all I have to say upon that, is that, if noble Lords opposite intend to found their indictment of the House of Lords upon our conduct in the last session of Parliament, we are perfectly ready to meet them in this House or outside of this House, upon that charge.
If noble Lords will look at the speech put into His Majesty's mouth at the end of last session, they will see that His Majesty's Ministers took credit for having passed in the course of the session ten or a dozen measures, to which they attached the greatest importance. How is it possible to represent the House of Lords as having obstructed the progress of business if that was the case? What were the two measures that did come to an untimely end? There was the Plural Voting Bill. Who has shed tears over the Plural Voting Bill? I am not aware of any mourning or lamentation over its fate. The people of this country understood perfectly well the reasons for which the House of Lords declined to pass the Plural Voting Bill. We threw it out because we regarded it as a cynical attempt to manipulate the Constitution for Party purposes. We were asked to deal with an anomaly which gave extra representation to members of the great Universities or to persons having a residence in one place and business premises in another. We were asked to 25 deal with that so-called anomaly and to leave far greater and more flagrant anomalies, with which our representative system abounds, entirely untouched. I believe, if the House of Lords had passed that Bill, the feeling in the country would have been that we were unworthy of our place as a Chamber of revision.
I am not going to re-debate the Education Bill, but here, again, will your Lordships consider what would be the position at this moment if that Bill had become law? It is suggested that this House has stood between the people of the country and a settlement of the education question. The Bill afforded no settlement of the education controversy. Why, my Lords, if that Bill had became law every one of the 14,000 voluntary schools of this country would at this moment be fighting with its back to the wall. And not without reason, because the Minister for Education, ill an unguarded moment, when he was discussing what this House had done in the way of providing for appeals against the action of the local authorities or of the Education Department, admitted that there would have probably been 7,000 appeals if that Bill had become law. That is to say, out of the 14,000 voluntary schools no less than half would have been threatened with extinction under a Bill which we were told was of a "live and lot live" description, and likely to leave things very much as they were in the well-managed and well equipped denominational schools.
Who was going to accept that Bill as a settlement of the education question? Not the Church of England! Not the Roman Catholics! Were the Nonconformists going to accept it as a settlement of the education question? Listen to the words of Mr. Hirst Hollowell spoken not long ago—The Bill as amended by Lord Crewe would have broken down in the working.Here again is Dr. Clifford. The Bill, he said, would have certainly broken up the Liberal Party, and repeated the disaster of 1870. Why, my Lords, noble Lords opposite ought to be grateful to us. And besides all this, by this time the British taxpayer would have found out that that apocryphal £1,000,000 which figured in the Bill was no better than a fraud, and would have been getting restless at the prospects of further imposts in order to provide for the expenses of the measure. 26 I cannot accept these post mortem testimonials to the merits of the Education Bill, and I say again if this House deserves censure and criticism it is not because of the two Bills it was instrumental in rejecting in the last session of Parliament. What I venture to say is, if we are to revise our Constitution, if we are to revise our Parliamentary procedure, let us do it upon broader grounds than that. We have no desire to shirk the discussion of this question. It has been raised in this House by some of its most brilliant and distinguished: Members in past years. Your Lordships will not have forgotten the speeches delivered by Lord Rosebery on the subject. The late Lord Salisbury addressed himself to it on more than one occasion, and I believe it is an open secret that a noble friend of mine now in the House, Lord Newton, is ready to come forward with proposals of his own connected with an alteration in the procedure of the House of Lords. I say by all means let us discuss these questions, but I do venture to say this to noble Lords opposite—let them clear their minds, and let them determine what it is that they really want. Do they want to make this House more efficient, and therefore stronger? Or do they want, on the contrary, to degrade it, and to reduce it to the level, as has sometimes been said, of a mere debating society? It is because that question has not been fully looked in the face that, I believe, in past years, these well-meant attempts to improve the machinery of the House of Lords have not succeeded, for there are two distinct currents of thought bearing on the subject. There is the current of thought which favours what I may call a constructive policy—which desires that this House should, as Lord Rosebery used to put it, be made as efficient as possible. That current runs counter to the assailants of the House of Lords who desire anything rather than that the House should be made stronger and more efficient than it is at this moment. On the other hand the destructive critics—those who would like to see the privileges and authority of this House effaced and obliterated, are, I believe, destined to fail for one reason of the simplest character—because the people of this country know perfectly well that, whatever danger is to be apprehended from an unreformed House of Lords, it is nothing like the 27 danger to be apprehended from an uncontrolled House of Commons. There was never, I believe, a moment when that feeling was more deeply rooted in the minds of the people of this country.
I turn for a moment to the legislative programme. The list of measures is a generous, if not a plethoric, list. One is tempted to compare it with the programme of last year. I think in the Speech of last year twelve or fourteen Rills were announced. But Parliament was not only invited to deal with those Bills: as the session went on, other measures, not originally put forward by His Majesty's Government, but put forward by private Members, were appropriated and added to the programme, with the result that during the short session in the autumn of last year this House was called upon to discuss in a very few weeks a number of first-rate measures which we had really no time to examine as fully as we might have desired. I should like to know whether the procedure of this year is to follow what I conceive to be the bad example of the procedure of last year. Noble Lords opposite complain of the manner in which we do our business. Then I say, give us a chance of doing our business as we would wish to do it, and do not, at the end of the session, thrust these undigested measures down our throats and then complain of us because we cannot swallow them all at once.
I know quite well that the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Ripon) has got a rejoinder which he always produces when I make these entreaties to him. It is the old tu quoque argument. The tu quoque argument is never a convincing one, and in our school days it used to be summarily punished. The noble Marquess will tell me that we also were sinners in that respect. So we were. But there was this difference. In the first place, I do not think we had autumn sessions; and, in the second place, the congestion of business at the end of the session, if there was any, was due to the fact that we desired to pass Bills which we had our selves introduced, which had been constantly before Parliament, and not Bills, so to speak, picked up, as the flotsam and the jetsam of the legislative tide, and appropriated by Ministers as a sort of afterthought.
28 We are promised a Bill dealing with the question of temperance; and it would be interesting to know, if His Majesty's Ministers will tell us, whether the law as it now stands is working badly, whether there has been any increase in drunkenness, or whether the liquor trade has been carried on in a discreditable manner. One hope I will express, that, whatever His Majesty's Ministers may determine to do, they will not place the conduct of the liquor trade of the country in the hands of local authorities. We have heard a good deal lately about municipal trading, and all I can say is that I should view with the utmost consternation any change which might have the effect of transferring the trade from those who at present conduct it to the local authorities.
With regard to the Army we are promised a Bill which can scarcely fail to be one of great importance. It was welcomed with enthusiasm by the noble Lord who spoke just now. We must defer our observations till we know what the proposals are. All I will venture to say is, that the Secretary of State for War has had, what every Minister newly entrusted with the charge of a Department has a right to claim, a sufficient amount of time to study the great problem. A year is a reasonable allowance; and I almost wish the new Chief Secretary for Ireland had been given a little longer time to study the two immensely important measures of which he has to accept the paternity. We shall be glad when we come to discuss the Army proposals to know something of the question of organisation, and we should like to know whether we have got an Army to organise, whether we have got or are getting the men, and whether we are providing for an adequate Reserve, because the Reserve must be the backbone of a short service Army; but I will not anticipate the discussion of these questions.
Then, after the House of Lords has been dealt with, after temperance has been dealt with, after Army reform has been dealt with, after two Scottish Bills, which promise to be extremely contentious, have been dealt with, then, at last, we come to Ireland. Well, there are two Bills dealing with Ireland, the Irish University Bill and another Bill, to which I will not venture to assign a title, 29 but which is described in a somewhat enigmatical sentence to which I shall presently refer. As to the Irish University, I take on myself to say that we, all of us, agree with His Majesty's Ministers in desiring that, if possible, something should be done to improve the opportunities now afforded to His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in Ireland for obtaining higher education. We know how much they desire that education, and we all know that for one cause or another the opportunities offered have not been satisfactory to them in the past. I should rejoice to see a satisfactory solution of this difficult question; but I am not satisfied that the particular solution recommended by His Majesty's Ministers can be regarded as in all respects a desirable one.
I am bound to add that, like many other people, I was very much surprised by the manner in which the new measure was announced to the public by the outgoing Chief Secretary. My right hon. friend Mr. Bryce was at that time Ambassador-designate, and he made what I may call a second-reading speech within four days of the publication of the Report of the Commission, before the evidence could be made public, and long before his successor could have had sufficient time to study the question as it deserved to be studied. I think there are extenuating circumstances. I think the only explanation is this, that my right hon. friend, feeling that he was about to begin a long period during which he would be bound by the strict shackles of diplomatic propriety, could not resist the temptation to have one last fling and showing that he had not lived a year in Ireland for nothing. The scheme itself has, I am afraid, been received with something like dismay by the friends of Dublin University, and I cannot gather that it has been received with any great enthusiasm by those whom it was most designed to propitiate. I wish I could believe that it will receive that general amount of goodwill and support without which I do not think there is much chance of carrying a measure which will be really satisfactory and acceptable to the people of Ireland.
There remains a reference to a measure—I suppose I must call it of local government—which His Majesty's Ministers intend to introduce. Now, my Noble 30 friend who moved the Address told your Lordships, in reference to this particular sentence in the Speech, that he could not conceive any more comprehensive or clear statement of the policy of His Majesty's Government than was contained in the four lines which deal with this important question. I am afraid I must admit that this was not the impression which these four lines left on my mind or on the minds of those who sit near me; and I am afraid I must add my noble friend who moved the Address left us in just as vague and nebulous a state of mind as we were in before he addressed the House. This sentence may mean almost anything; it may mean very little, or it may mean a great deal. It is desired further to associate the people of Ireland with the management of their domestic affairs, and otherwise to improve the system of government in its administrative and financial aspects. Well, we are all in favour of improving local administration in Ireland, but I have been watching, and I dare say so have many others, with interest, the laborious efforts lately made by His Majesty's Ministers to reassure, on the one hand, those of their supporters who regard with the utmost aversion any project savouring of what is commonly described as Home Rule, and, on the other hand, their Irish supporters who have intimated with almost brutal frankness that nothing will content them but an Irish Parliament and an Irish executive responsible to that Parliament. Well, there is room for all these things within this vague and nebulous formula, and therefore I will not attempt at this stage to conjecture what is really intended by his Majesty's Ministers; but I take leave to say this. Our duty in the matter is plain; we must wait for the production of the measure, and we must see whether it is one which leaves the authority of the Imperial Parliament absolutely, both in theory and in practice, solid and unimpaired. That is the test by which we shall judge the measure of the Government, that is the test I hope we shall apply to it.
I have addressed your Lordships for an unusual length of time, and I will not take up more time by referring to the long list of measures with which the Speech concludes. An interesting sidelight was thrown upon that list by an observation of the noble seconder, who appears to have been rather hardly used 31 by those who supplied him with the materials for his speech. It is quite clear, from that chance admission, that the list, long as it is, was at one moment a good deal longer. It is particularly noticeable in the programme of legislation proposed by a Government deeply committed to measures of social improvement and reform, that the measures which merit this description, notably the Bills on small holdings and housing of the working classes, are at the extreme tail of the procession. What chances there are of such measures being reached within the limits of any session known to Parliament I leave to your Lordships to conjecture. All I will say in regard to these Bills is that if, as we may assume, they are likely to be introduced, I hope that some of them at all events will be introduced in this House, and that they will be laid before us under conditions which will allow us a decent opportunity of giving to them the consideration and attention which measures of such importance deserve.
*THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (The Marquess of RIPON)
My Lords, I desire in the first place heartily to associate myself with my noble friend behind me and the noble Marquess in deploring the great loss this House has sustained by the death of Lord Goschen. My noble friend spoke of him as colleague and friend, and with my noble friend's account of the high qualities displayed in both respects I am in entire agreement. I served with Lord Goschen in Government, and I have watched him in Opposition, and heartily and entirely I desire to associate myself in an expression of the deep sense of the loss the House has sustained.
It is my pleasant duty to congratulate my noble friends behind me upon the able manner in which they discharged their task in moving and seconding the Address. My noble friend opposite was rather inclined, if I may use a common word, to chaff my noble friend Lord Castletown on account of his experience; he was not sufficiently inexperienced to satisfy the requirements of the noble Marquess, and no doubt any one who listened to my noble friend to-night would know he was not an inexperienced speaker. He, in an admirable manner, discharged the task entrusted to him. Of the seconder of the Motion it cannot 32 be complained that he has had too much experience. This is the first time he has addressed the House, or any Assembly of the kind, and I am sure your Lordships will agree with me in acknowledging the able manner in which he had acquitted himself. The hope has often been expressed on these occasions by those who have followed the mover and seconder that those noble Lords having done so well on this occasion would often be heard again in our debates, but I am bound to say that my experience has been that that request has not often been complied with. I have known many noble Lords who have made excellent speeches in moving and seconding the Address and have rested on those laurels. I hope my noble friend Lord Chichester will not do anything of the kind, but will give us the advantage of hearing him again frequently during the course of our debates.
My noble friend complained of the paragraph in the Kings Speech relating to foreign affairs as being meagre. There is a saying that happy is the people whose annals are dull, and I may say that happy is the position of the country when it is not necessary to enter into a long discussion as to its relations with other nations. We have only to say that our relations with foreign countries are highly satisfactory. I may say that a great deal of the meagreness complained of by the noble Marquess in the paragraph on the subject is due to my noble friend opposite himself for his conduct of foreign affairs.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
And I do not think the noble Marquess will deny that in Sir Edward Grey he has a very able and competent successor. Then my noble friend touched on the New Hebrides, and he thought he had discovered some means by which he might return for a moment to the controversies upon Chinese labour. I do not think my noble friend or noble Lords opposite have ever really apprehended what was our true objection to the system of Chinese labour in South Africa. It was mainly against those parts of the Ordinance established for that purpose which related to the condition of the Chinese coolies outside the places where they worked; it was to the restrictions which were laid upon their 33 general relations with the community that we chiefly objected. I do not think anything of that description will be found in the Ordinance to which my noble friend alluded just now.
As to the omission of a reference to the Colonial Conference in the King's Speech, the Government do not in the smallest degree underrate the importance of that Conference. It will discuss any relevant question that may come before it; and I am sure my noble friend behind me, the Secretary for the Colonies, is looking forward with the deepest interest to the assembling of the Conference and hopes to derive great benefits from it. My noble friend opposite also said something about the discussion by the Conference of free trade between all parts of the Empire. No doubt a real Zollverein would have an attraction. But that idea is not one that has ever been put forward in regard to our commercial relations with our Colonies by the Colonies. We know that a Zollverein, which means real free trade between all parts of the Empire, is the last thing which many of the Colonies would think of establishing.
I need not dwell upon the lamentable occurrence at Kingston. That port has the sympathy of everyone. But I cannot help expressing the deep regret with which I have learned that one of the victims of the disaster was Sir James Fergusson. By his death we have sustained the loss of one who for a long period of years and in many capacities served his Sovereign and his country well. We have heard with the keenest satisfaction of the manner in which the people of the United States came to our assistance at Kingston. That action has done much to bind still closer the ties which connect us with our kin across the Atlantic, and to them and their officers we owe deep gratitude.
My noble friend opposite naturally referred to the Indian paragraph in the Speech. It is one which we must all regard with very deep interest. In my judgment it is a great thing that the Amir of Afghanistan should not only have made a prolonged visit to India, but that he should have had opportunities of making himself thoroughly acquainted I with the nature of our government, our I relations with the chiefs, and the policy which we impartially pursue between all races and religions in that land. 34 There is an expression in the Speech which points to what seems to me to be one of the most important features of that visit—it records that the Amir has made an active survey of leading features in Indian life. I believe that what has occurred will tend to cement more closely our relations with the ruler of Afghanistan, and to produce those right feelings which, as the Speech says, are of even more importance than formal compacts. The arrangements made for the reception of the Amir by Lord Minto and the Government of India have been most satisfactory. Lord Minto has so conducted all those arrangements that I believe that in no single instance has any contretemps occurred.
As to the second paragraph of the Speech relating to India, the noble Marquess spoke of it as somewhat enigmatical. But in saying that he cannot have altogether recollected the important speech made by my right hon. friend Mr. Morley on the Indian Budget last year. My right hon. friend laid down, in language with which I desire to associate myself, the main principles of his Indian policy. He said that the Government quite as strongly in India as here were alive to the necessity of taking some steps to meet the almost universal desire for political advance. Now, what has been done? The Governor General has entrusted to a Committee of his Executive Council the consideration of whether steps could be taken in the direction I have indicated. They have reported, and their conclusions were submitted to the Governor-General in full Council, and a despatch from Lord Minto submitting these conclusions to the Secretary of State is expected to reach Mr. Morley by the end of the present month or the beginning of next.
Now I come to the most important part of the Speech, the paragraph dealing with the relations between the two Houses. My noble friend took exception to that paragraph, considering that it implied an unfair attack on this House. We are also told that we have no mandate on this subject. I do not believe in mandates. Therefore I am not prepared to say to what extent the subject was discussed at the general election. But I assure my noble friend opposite that within the last twenty years there has been no period without constant criticism 35 of this House. My noble friend quoted Mr. Bryce as having said that it was the business of the two Houses frequently to differ. That may be so. But one of the complaints that I hear very commonly made in regard to the relations of this House with the other House of Parliament is this—that when there is a Liberal Government in office they do very frequently differ, but when there is a Conservative Government in office they never differ at all. Whether that is exactly the function of a revising Chamber I will not undertake to say, but at all events it shows that Mr. Bryce's dictum is not always carried out by this House.
I do not know whether I need deal with the two questions which my noble friend spoke of, the Plural Voting Bill and the Education Bill. I do not think your Lordships did wisely or rightly in rejecting the Plural Voting Bill; I think it was a matter connected with the election of Members of the other House of Parliament, a matter which might have been dealt with by itself. I do not think it was wise on your Lordships' part to reject that measure. Still less do I think that what happened in regard to the Education Bill is a subject on which your Lordships can justly congratulate yourselves. I believe it would have been perfectly possible to come to a compromise on that Bill. The Education Bill was in itself from the first moment of its introduction a compromise; it became, to my great satisfaction, a more complete and full compromise in its final stage by the concessions which the Government were prepared to make; I but your Lordships rejected it and would not accept those concessions, and the Bill failed. Now, is it unnatural, I when that Bill had occupied so large a portion of the discussions of the other House, when on both sides of the education question there had been mutual concessions, and when there was a fair and reasonable prospect of a settlement, that that House should complain that; the Bill was rejected as it was by this House? I will not go into details on the question. What I do say is this—this House does require reform. You do not deny it, you have declared to-night, quite in accordance with opinions many of you have entertained, that you are ready to consider proposals for its reform. 36 My noble friend Lord Newton, I understand, intends to raise that question?
§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
Then I reserve anything I may have to say upon it until my noble friend brings forward his proposal. But the reform of this House does not settle the whole difficulty. There are two things required. There is the reform of this House as a second Chamber, which I as an advocate of a second Chamber strongly desire to see; and there is the question how, when a difference arises between the two Houses, that difference is to be brought to a conclusion. That is the question with which, in the opinion of the Government, it is necessary now to deal, and in considering this question you must forgive me if I say quite plainly what is the difficulty.
The difficulty is this—that this House with its present Members and under its present constitution contains an overwhelming majority of one political Party. I do not care which Party it is; if it were the Liberal Party it would be just the same in my judgment. I daresay the Liberal Party, or any other Party, would do what you do if they had the power; I am not denying it, I am not casting any individual blame on your Lordships. But I do say this, that the broad circumstance of this House being in a large majority composed of the members of one Party is a great and dangerous evil; and it is that evil and its effects, with the check which it puts upon the legislation of the representatives of the people, it is that question which the Government proposes to consider.
The paragraph in the Speech tells you that the subject is under our consideration. I cannot enlighten my noble friend as to what the results of that consideration may be, but it is not a question to be dealt with hastily or without due consideration. It is a very grave and serious matter. These difficulties arose last Christmas. What would my noble friend have said if we had come down in the beginning of February with a cut and dried scheme? No, my Lords, we recognise the gravity of the question, and it is our duty to take the time that may be required in order to consider 37 what proposals we shall submit to Parliament in regard to it.
With respect to the licensing proposals, the noble Marquess thinks that question was settled by the last Act. I cannot say I thought the debates in this House on the Bill showed that it was very likely to be a final settlement of the question. I doubt whether the most rev. Primate is quite convinced that that measure was of a character such as he desires. I believe it to be intensely capable of improvement, and that improvement we propose to embody in our Bill.
As to the Army proposals of the Secretary of State for War, I cannot, of course, anticipate the statement which he will make, I believe before very long, in another place. But I can say this—that it is a wide and full and complete scheme, dealing with oar military forces in all their branches. I was a little surprised when my noble friend said there was a preliminary question which he would like to ask—namely: Have we an Army? My Lords, we have got the Army you left us.
§ *THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
It is in the hope of having a better Army that those proposals will be submitted. As to Ireland, I was, on the whole, pleasantly disappointed with the tone which my noble friend took. He says the paragraph is not clear. I am very sorry that the literary talent of the I present Government is not sufficient to make its ideas clear to my noble friend, But at least one thing is quite clear from that paragraph—that, whatever may be; the opinion of individual members of the Government, what is proposed is not an Irish Legislature with an Irish Government responsible to it, but measures for improving the system of administration and the financial regulations of Ireland. As to the University question, that has long been overdue for settlement. How long ago is it since Mr. Arthur Balfour went down to Manchester and told the people there that because the British Parliament would not settle this question he could hardly defend the principles of the Union? Mr. Balfour since then has been Prime Minister; he has not done anything in regard to this 38 subject at all. It is a very difficult subject, I quite agree; but we hope and believe that the proposals which we shall make upon it will be of a nature, not to please everybody, because I do not think that is likely to be possible—and particularly improbable in Ireland—but to receive general though not universal support.
With regard to the Bills at the end of the Speech, some of them are of great importance. There is no more difficult question in connection with local taxation in this country than that of valuation. It has been the intention of not a few Governments to bring in a Valuation Bill, but none have ever faced the question. I hope it may be given to the energy and devotion of my right hon. friend Mr. John Hums to settle this most important and difficult question, which lies at the very root of local taxation. Then I rejoice greatly that we are going to have a Bill allowing women to sit on district councils and bodies of that kind. I have voted for such Bills in this House before now—they have always been thrown out by your Lordships—but I hope that this proposal may receive a more favourable consideration from you, because I think you will find, if you ask I those who have had dealings with women on boards of guardians and other bodies on which women can sit, that their presence there is generally admitted to be of very great advantage.
As regards small holdings and the housing of the people, my noble friend seemed to think that because they happened to be named last they were regarded by the Government as of no importance. I myself regard them as of the very gravest importance. I think that, after the able Report of the Committee presided over by Lord Onslow, it would be impossible not to deal, and to deal, I hope, largely, with this question. I have seen it said that if a Bill of that sort—a real, honest, substantial Bill—is sent up to the House of Lords, this House will throw it out. I do not believe you will reject it. I believe that you will give to it a fair consideration, because nothing could be more advantageous to the happiness and welfare of the rural people of this country and also to the progress of agriculture than a wide measure of this kind.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
§ The Earl of Onslow—Appointed nemine dissentiente to take the Chair in all Committees of this House for the session.
§ Committee for Privileges—Appointed.
§ Committee for the Journals—Appointed.
§ Stoppages in the Streets—Order to prevent, renewed.
§ Appeal Committee—Appointed.
The LORD CHANCELLOR
acquainted the House that the following Papers, having been commanded to be presented to this House by His Majesty, had been so presented on the following dates by delivery to the Clerk of the Parliaments, pursuant to Standing Order No. CXI., viz.: