Standing Committees (Amendment Of Standing Order 50)
Standing Order 50 read:—"That all Bills which shall have been committed to one of the said Standing Committees shall, when reported to the House, be proceeded with as if they had been reported from a Committee of the whole House: Provided that the, provisions of the Standing Order 'Consideration of a Sill as amended' shall not apply to a Bill reported to the House by a Standing Committee."
said that if any apology were needed from him for introducing this very important subject of the Amendment of Standing Orders, he begged to make it at once. He had for many years taken a deep interest in the work of the Standing Committee, and was familiar with the time in the history of Parliament when the new system was inaugurated by Mr. Gladstone, which, as he thought, wisely embodied the principle of delegation. He hoped the House would remember the circumstances under which that principle was adopted. He believed that the result of the experiment had been highly successful. The duties of Standing Committees had been confined to problems of administrative detail, and he, for his part, would strengthen those Committees; as he was quite sure that the business of the House was now becoming so heavy and covered so wide a range that the principle of delegation had become absolutely necessary to the successful issue of Parliamentary proceedings. The feeling of the Parliament elected in 1895 was less satisfactory on this point than the system which prevailed in the preceding Parliament. He had observed with great regret in the Parliament which had recently expired that the decisions of Standing Committees had not been received with the same respect as in the preceding Parliament; and he trusted that the Parliament now commencing its duties would, under the guidance of Mr. Speaker, follow the precedent of earlier Parliaments rather than that of the later. Parliament had certainly shown confidence in these Committees, because it had delegated to them subjects of the most gigantic importance. Not many years ago it was the rule of the House when a Bill had been amended in Committee of the Whole House to put the Report stage from the Chair in these words, "That the Bill be now considered." That proceeding involved considerable delay; for it often gave rise to a Second Reading debate, and constituted a great impediment to the advancement of wholesome legislation. When the Standing Committees were first inaugurated, no Amendment was introduced to effect the abolition of that stage, and one part of his present proposal was to secure that when a Standing Committee had carefully considered a Bill and amended it, the Report stage should be taken without question put, and that the House be enabled to proceed immediately with the Report. There was one point in the procedure of the Standing Committees and of Committees of the Whole House which was, as he thought, unfortunately identical. If a Committee of the whole House had passed a Bill without amendment there was no Report stage. He did not regret that condition of things, because the whole House had had an opportunity of considering the whole question, and every clause of the Bill had passed in review before it. But in the case of Standing Committees which had passed a Bill without amendment the same rule applied, and he did not think that that was desirable; because in that case the House as a whole had had no opportunity of examining the Bill in detail, and was granted none except by the cumbrous and oftentimes impossible procedure; of moving that the Bill be, recommitted. They all knew the great difficulty of adopting that course and the impediment which it interposed to the progress of a Bill. The proposal which he made, therefore, was, that in cases where a comparatively thinly attended Committee had passed a Bill without amendment, an opportunity should be given for the measure to be considered by the whole House, and for every clause to be submitted to investigation. The system of delegation had been carried out successfully as a whole, but he thought that the Amendments which he had ventured to indicate ought to be made. The House had committed to Standing Committees subjects of the greatest importance, one or two of which he would enumerate in order to illustrate his point. First there was the question of vaccination, a subject of very great importance indeed, and yet the number of Members who took part in the deliberations of the Standing Committee on that was most unsatisfactory. He found that the highest number who voted in any one division was not more than twenty-two, and yet they knew how the public mind was stirred upon that question, and how great was the magnitude of the issue involved. Then they had in 1899 the Act which, for the first time, gave this country free elementary education. That again was most important, and yet the highest number of Members who voted on that Standing Committee was twenty-one. In 1900 there was another Education Bill, in charge of his right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University, and in the Standing Committee to which that was referred the highest number of votes recorded was twenty-six. He might recall to their minds the Corrupt Practices Bill of 1895—a Bill of very great importance, which gave new powers with regard to the conduct of elections and exposed many persons to the severest penalties. That was passed through a Standing Committee in which the highest number of votes recorded was twenty-two. Did not those figures constitute sufficient proof that the action of Standing Committees in considering proposed changes in a Bill was not altogether satisfactory? He was quite aware that his right hon. friend would say not many Bills had passed the Standing Committees without amendment. But still there were some, and some, too, of considerable importance. There was at least one each year, and last year there were two—one of them a Government Bill of very great moment, dealing with education. It was greatly to be regretted that no opportunity was afforded for submitting that Bill to the House clause by clause and word by word. His desire was to strengthen the existing Standing Committees and to bring them back to the position which they occupied in the Parliament elected in 1893 rather than to their inferior position in the succeeding Parliament. He believed that the proposals which he made would tend in that direction, and would give greater vigour to the proceedings of those Committees. They would render possible legislation which was now difficult by reason of rules tending to impede legislative progress. He begged to move.
seconded the motion. He said the whole question could be put in a nutshell. Under the present system if a Bill happened to pass through the Standing Committee without amendment the House had no power over it except on a proposal to re-commit, or on the motion for Third Reading. His contention was that a Bill referred to a Standing Committee should under no circumstances be withdrawn from the action or cognisance of the House, and the effect of his hon. friend's proposal would be to enable any Member to put down Amendments on the Report stage of any Bill which had so passed through the Standing Committee. Motion made, and Question proposed. "That Standing Order 50 be amended by leaving out from the word 'Provided,' to the end, in order to add the words. 'only that all Bills reported from a Standing Committee, whether amended or not, shall be considered on Report by the House without question put, unless the Member in charge thereof desire to postpone its consideration or a motion be made to re-commit the Bill.'"—(Sir Francis Sharp Powell.)
supported the motion. They knew that if a Bill passed through Committee and if no alteration were made in it it did not again come before the House by way of the Report stage. There was a very important Government Bill to which that happened—the Agricultural Rating Act. It was considered in Committee of the whole House, not a comma was allowed to be altered in it, and the consequence was that it did not come before the House again. But on that occasion the House had an opportunity again and again of considering and voting upon the details. But in the case of a Bill sent to Grand Committee it was most unfortunate, when details had to be settled, that it should be withdrawn entirely from the cognisance of the House. They all knew the difficulty of securing a good attendance at these Standing Committees. They often had to wait some time before a quorum could be constituted, and it had occurred that a Committee had had to disperse without obtaining a quorum. The other night a Crematorium Bill was passed through the House after very hurried consideration, and was sent to a Committee upstairs. If no alteration was made in it by that Committee the Bill, which embodied a principle of the greatest importance to the whole community, would come back to the House and have to be either accepted or rejected on the motion for the Third Reading. Many hon. Members might wish to make important alterations in it, and yet be unwilling to take upon themselves the responsibility of moving its rejection on the Third Reading. It might be suggested that if an hon. Member took particular interest in a Bill he could get his name added to the Standing Committee dealing with it; but recent experience had shown that that was not always possible, and the result was that many Members might be deprived of an opportunity of dealing with questions in which they were deeply interested. He had himself endeavoured, without success, to get his name added to a Standing Committee. It might further be suggested that one result of the abolition of the Report stage was to do away with obstruction. His reply to that was that Parliament had always proved itself strong enough to deal with obstruction, and had carried through legislation when determined so to do.
also supported the motion. He was glad to think that this was not a question of party. It was a question affecting the Grand Committees which were experimentally created some years ago. He was quite sure that the general opinion of Members of the House was that the work of the Grand Committees had on the whole been very successful, and he was afraid that the only danger likely to arise from them was that they might be used, not for party purposes, but for the promotion of certain Bills by certain Members who did not desire that the House should have an opportunity of giving due consideration to them. At the present moment, if a Bill passed through the Grand Committee without amendment, then those Members of the House who were not Members of the Grand Committee had no opportunity at all of placing their views before the House, or of amending the Bill. He thought the House would agree that that was not a proper position in which such Bills should be placed, and that the effect of the Grand Committee ought not to be to relieve the House of Commons of all responsibility in regard to those Bills. He was quite sure that when the system of Grand Committees was originally introduced there was no desire on the part of the promoters of it to withdraw from the House effective control over the work done by the Committees. No doubt many Bills were sent to such Committees with the general assent of the House, with the object of being improved and passed through the Committee. There might be cases in which for some reason or other, possibly from apathy, there was a bad attendance of the Members of the Committee, with the result that the Bill was not properly considered. In such cases the motion of the hon. Member would effect a very desirable improvement of procedure. If, on the other hand, a Bill had been properly considered by the Committee, then the proposal would have no effect, and the House would be wiling to pass on to the Third Reading. There had been some flagrant cases in which efforts had been made to avoid a Report stage. The Government Education Bill was one on which, above all others. Members on both sides of the House should have had an opportunity, if they so desired, of discussing and amending if necessary the work done in Committee. But in consequence of that Bill having been forced by the majority through the Committee without any amendment at all, the only opportunity afforded them of discussing the matter in which they were interested was on the motion for the Third Reading, which, of course, was perfectly futile, so far as Amendments were concerned. He was sure the general view of the House would be in favour of maintaining the integrity, power, and usefulness of Grand Committees, and, as he believed the motion would tend in that direction, he cordially supported it.
If there had been any indication of any opposition on the part of the House to the motion. I would have delayed troubling the House; but as there seems to be general assent, the time has, perhaps, come for me to state the views of the Government. This is really a House of Commons' matter, I think that the Standing Order referred to by the hon. Gentleman is a curious instance of how a provision sometimes works exactly in the opposite direction from that intended. Under the old common law of Parliament, in the case of every Bill which came to the Report stage, the question was submitted. "That this Bill be now considered." This practice was found to be so irksome and to lend itself to undue discussion that the House passed Standing Order No. 40—
The date of that Standing Order was 1882. When Standing Committees were inaugurated it was intended that the House should have proper control over the Bills referred to these Committees, and accordingly Standing Order No. 50 was framed, which provides—"That when the Order of the Day for the consideration of a Bill, as amended in Committee of the Whole House, has been read, the House do proceed to consider the same without question put, unless the Member in charge thereof shall desire to postpone its consideration, or a motion shall be made to recommit the Bill."
The intention was to prevent the whole Committee stage being gone over again on Report, but the old practice was still retained that the question should be put, with debate ensuing thereon, "That this Bill be now considered." That was a laudable thing, but what was the practical working of it? If the Bill was not amended, then it came under the common law practice and escaped the Report stage. I venture to think that that was quite outside the obvious view of the framers of Standing Order No. 50, and I think that my lion, friend behind me is acting in accordance with the intention and true spirit of the framers of Standing Order No. 50 in bringing his Amendment before the House. You must always look at this Standing Order from the point of view of the use as well as the abuse of procedure; both are equally deserving of attention. The use of procedure is undoubtedly that when a Bill has been carefully considered upstairs, there is no reason for an extra debate on the question, "That the Bill be now considered." The abuse of procedure is that, inasmuch as under the present Standing Order, if the Bill is not amended and comes to the Report stage, it puts before the Standing Committees the temptation to commit—I do not say their besetting sin, but what is liable to become their besetting sin—that is, to refuse Amendments in order to avoid the Report stage. There may be also, possibly, the opposite abuse—Amendments may be put in upstairs which are not necessary, in order that it may be open to discuss the Bill on the Report stage in the House. During the ten years I have been in the House I have had as much experience as any one of the Grand Committees. I have been a Member of the Standing Committee on Law during the whole of that time: I have had the conduct of several very long Bills in Committee, and I have no hesitation in saying that I have never observed any controversial spirit in a purely party sense introduced into the discussions on these Committees. But it is possible that there may be a controversial spirit in another than a party sense of the word, and where there are many Members who are anxious to discuss certain subjects but cannot find an opportunity of doing so in the Grand Committee, I think they ought to have that opportunity when the Bill comes back to the House. The Amendment of my hon. friend affords that, and at the same time does away with the possible abuse of a rule which takes a Bill out of the cognisance of the House. The Government would be very glad if the Amendment were passed."That all Bills which shall have been committed to one of the said Standing Committees shall, when reported to the House, be proceeded with as if they had been reported from a Committee of the Whole House; provided than the provisions of the Standing Order, 'Consideration of the Bill as amended,' shall not apply to a Bill reported to the House by a Standing Committee."
I have only too much reason to fear that the adoption of this Amendment of the Standing Order will be a serious blow at the few remaining opportunities which private Members have to pass legislation. The only chance which a private Member has of getting his Bill passed after the Second Beading is by referring it to a Grand Committee, and if a Bill which has passed the Grand Committee stage can be discussed as a whole on the Report stage the chance of having it passed into law will almost entirely disappear. A Bill cannot get to the Grand Committee unless its principle has been adopted by the House itself on the Second Reading. The Report stage, when the Bill comes back, cannot disappear unless it has passed through Grand Committee without amendment. It has been said that a Bill often passes through Grand Committee on account of apathy or want of interest in the Bill on the part of the Members. For my part, I do not believe that any Bill, raising any question of any substance, could possibly pass through Grand Committee without full discussion. I have had some experience of the Grand Committee on Law, and have seen Bills discussed by fifty or sixty hon. Members who had been appointed to that Committee with special reference to these Bills, and it seems to me an absurdity to state that Bills can pass through Grand Committees without discussion.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wigan and the hon. Member for Preston on having placed this resolution before the House. It seems to me deserving of more attention than can be given to it in the absence of a very large number of the right hon. Gentlemen who represent the Ministry. The change suggested by the hon. Baronet is one which vitally affects the procedure of this House, and goes to the root of Parliamentary government. It changes in a very material degree the practice of Parliament in the discussion of Bills that have been referred to Standing Committees; and, in my humble judgment, in a matter of such great gravity and such vital importance we might fairly expect the presence of the right hon. Gentleman who leads the House, in order to have from him an expression of his views based on his ripe experience on all matters that affect the honour and dignity of the House of Commons. I regret very much that we should have had a statement only from the Lord Advocate, who, after all is said and done, is not of Cabinet rank. On a matter of this importance we ought to have had from a Cabinet Minister an expression of the opinion and feelings of the Government. I am entirely at one with the Lord Advocate, and also with the hon. Member on the Front Opposition Bench, that we ought to deliberate this question as removed from party politics. No questions of tactics or party differences should be dragged into this discussion, as it is a matter which will be of importance when parties are altered, and when Members on this side of the House shall have crossed to the other side. The fact that this resolution has been introduced by two old Members of the standing and position of the hon. Member for Wigan and the hon. Member for Preston ought to have some weight with the House of Commons. This House is largely composed at the present time of new Members. Now, new Members enter with a desire to gain, as rapidly as they can, a full appreciation and knowledge of all the forms and ceremonies of the House; and they are apt, and rightly so, to look to the guidance of old Members in arriving at the decision which they may take. I do not think that the House could take, on a question similar to this, better guides than the hon, Members for Wigan and Preston. The very fact that they are detached in matters of this kind, that they have no political are to grind, and have no desire to further officialism in Parliamentary procedure, should have considerable weight with young Members. The Leader of the House we are all acquainted with. A Bill comes on for Second Reading, and hon. Members rise to debate questions which are perhaps of vital importance to their constituents and their friends, but the House knows too well that the pressure is such that many Members are debarred from speaking, and that when the debate is dragging its weary length the First Lord drops into the Chamber and moves the closure, thus preventing many Members who have fresh, original ideas, and who wish to place them before the House, from doing so. This does not assist or add to the dignity of debate, or the due consideration of measures brought before the House. When a proposal is made that such and such a Bill should be referred to the Grand Committee on haw or on Trade, very little discussion is possible, as the debate is rightly confined to the substantive motion, so that hon. Members who possess encyclopædic knowledge and fertility of ideas, like the hon. Members for King's Lynn and West Islington, are not able to prolong the debate and deal with the very pith and marrow of the Bill. The motion is put, and the Bill is sent to the Grand Committee. For a very long time I have been a member of the Grand Committee on Trade. I have very great respect for that Committee, and fully recognise the ability of its members in dealing with matters of trade; but, after all is said and done, even a Grand Committee, which is specially struck, and is representative of every view in this House, cannot possibly possess the expert and technical knowledge which is shared and enjoyed by the House as a whole. It is possible that upon a Grand Committee there may be a number of members who have strong opinions on any Bill referred to it, and the Grand Committee is debarred from finally considering and elaborating the details of the Bill. I do not desire to generalise altogether on these matters, but I will give one specific instance, namely, the Bill on Beer. What chance has this House, when the motion is made that this Bill should be referred to a Grand Committee, of objecting to it in detail? All chance is lost. If a Bill goes to a Grand Committee, hon. Gentlemen who are supporters of the Bill are in a majority, and all Amendments, even though they may be beneficial, are defeated, even if they have right on their side, not because the Amendments are wrong, but simply for the reason that if one word in the Bill is altered it is impossible to return the Bill un-amended to the House. That is carrying matters to extremes. The Grand Committee occupies a position of greater importance than the House itself, and I think in matters of such importance, of such magnitude, affecting a great article of consumption, the House as a whole ought to have power to deal with the details. If a Bill is returned un-amended by the Grand Committee, it is impossible to deal with it in the House except upon Third Heading. It is possible to move to recommit the Bill, but all hon. Members know that the House has a strong objection to any motion for the recommittal of a Bill, and very naturally so, after the Committee have worked upon it. It is looked upon as a waste of labour to recommit it, and therefore the power of recommitting a Bill is very seldom used. Therefore, so far as the recommittal of the Bill is concerned, it is almost impossible to obtain it, and even if it were obtained, the result, after the Committee's labours, would possibly be the same. Then comes the Third Reading, but it is a very responsible thing for an hon. Gentleman to move the rejection on the Third Reading of a Bill which is in the main an unobjectionable and a good Bill. No one likes to take such a responsibility upon himself, and if he did, and the measure was a popular one, the man who took that responsibility knows very well he would have an angry body of constituents to meet, and would receive from all parts of the country letters and postcards, anonymous and otherwise, innumerable. There is nothing down on the Notice Paper to-day which is of such vital importance to our debates, discussions, and procedure as this matter, and therefore I say it is the last weapon in the armoury of an objecting Member. A motion for the adjournment of the House is a broken reed, which would pierce the hand of any hon. Member who used it. In the face of all these facts I venture to ask the House, notwithstanding the objection of the hon. Member for Waterford, whether it is not a desirable change in the rules of procedure of the House which has been moved by the hon. Baronet. I do not think that any hon. Gentleman who has carefully watched the discussions on Bills in this House can rise in his place, without he has some motive, and object to this resolution. I regret that the motion has not been on the Paper for a longer time. I venture to say that it ought to have been considered for a week or two, and possibly referred to a Select Committee, but above all, when a matter of such great moment is brought before the House we ought to have the direct advice, knowledge, and experience of the First Lord of the Treasury at the service of the House. It is to be deplored that when a matter affecting the well-being of Parliament as this does comes up for discussion the right hon. Gentleman should not be in his place. I hope that notwithstanding any opposition my hon. friend will go to a division.
said he did not rise for the purpose of prolonging the debate. He approached this subject with a perfectly open mind, and he admitted that it might be looked at from two points of view. There were two classes of Bills which were sent to Grand Committees. So far as the Bills of private Members were concerned he was in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Waterford, that if it was desired to carry through a Bill to which there was the least opposition in the House, the only way to do so was to send it to a Standing Committee. But if private Members' Bills were to be considered on Report, very few Bills would be passed. In regard, however, to the other class of Bills—Government Bills—he welcomed the clause. Everybody knew that the Government, if they had a very contentious Bill, referred it to a Standing Committee, with the result that it was nicely got through the House. While he admitted that it would be disadvantageous to private Members, he welcomed the clause because in contentious Government Bills Amendments could be put down on the Report stage, and dealt with by the House. That was a great lever against the Government, and he should vote for the clause.
said he had listened to the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark with great astonishment. During the nine years he had sat in the House he had always thought the hon. Gentleman had exercised all his remarkable ingenuity in order to try and prevent private Members passing Bills through the House.
said he never put down Amendments to any Bills when they had been properly discussed either in Committee or in the House,; he only did so when proper discussion had not taken place.
said all he knew was that he once undertook to pilot a private Bill through the House, and the only objection to the Bill came from the hon. Member for Mid-Lanark. There was no doubt that when Standing Committees were first introduced, the idea was to relieve the House of a certain amount of work which it could not undertake, but it was not contemplated to withdraw all power of supervision from the House on these matters. His experience was that twice out of three times the only Members who attended Committees were those who were interested in passing the Bills with which they were dealing into law. It was impossible to get other Members to attend, and the result was that if a Bill passed its Second Reading and was sent to a Committee, there was every possibility of its being passed into law.
said he had always regarded the House as an extremely conservative assembly so far as its rules and procedure were concerned, but here was an attempt being made at ten o'clock at night to alter one of the most important Standing Orders without notice having been given to Members.
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, but my notice has been on the Paper in one form or another during two or three years.
admitted; that that was so, but it could not be denied that the opinion held by most Members was that the idea was that there was to be a morning sitting for taking the discussion on the adjournment of the House, and that the adjournment would be taken at seven o'clock, and that there was practically no possibility of sitting at nine. It would be conceded that if the House sat at nine it was not because of any burning desire to alter the Standing Orders, but to discuss the question of pure beer. The House of Commons had no right under these circumstances to set itself to alter in the slightest degree the Standing Orders of the House. He was of opinion that the proper course would be to adjourn the debate until such time as a purely representative attendance of Members should be present. It was not a party question, but a question for the House generally to decide. If the motion was passed, the logical inference would be that Standing Committees ought to be abolished, because if a Bill, after it had passed through a Standing Committee, could be discussed in the House, the investigations by the Standing Committee would be a pure waste of time. The Members who attended the Standing Committees for the purpose of passing the Bills in which they were interested, as was alleged by the hon. Member for Peckham, were not permanent Members of the Committee, but were imported on various occasions. Of course, if it was alleged that the permanent Members neglected their duty, that would be an argument in favour of the rule, and if that were so, he would say, do not alter the rule, but abolish the Standing Committee altogether. He urged the House not to alter the rule upon such comparatively short notice as had been given, and he begged leave to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
I cannot accept the motion. The motion of the hon. Baronet has been down on the Paper for several days; there is no surprise.
On a point of order, do I understand, Sir, that you refuse the motion made because you consider it to be an abuse of the privileges of the House?
After your ruling, Sir, I cannot do what I was about to do, namely, second the motion of the hon. Member for East Clare. I heartily concur with what has been said by the hon. Member for Peckham as to the attendance on Grand Committees. In my own experience, a large number of hon. Gentlemen are put on the Grand Committee to discuss a particular measure, and what happens? A large number of those gentlemen are always absent, and are fetched in to take part in the division without their having heard one word of the arguments. But it seems an extraordinary thing that at this period of the session, and on this particular evening, we should be asked to discuss a motion of a somewhat revolutionary character, and I cannot help thinking that we should not proceed further upon this motion without some advice and guidance from the Government.
said the motion practically rang the knell of the Standing Committees, and he should vote for it on that account. He had been for some time a Member of the Standing Committee on Law, and his experience was that there was the greatest difficulty in getting a quorum. The thing was simply reduced to a farce time after time. They had had to suspend the proceedings in order that those who were in favour of something in a Bill might run about to get other Members to support them. The sending of a Bill to a Standing Committee meant avoiding the Report stage and getting it through by a back door. He thought, therefore, they shoud, understand exactly what they were doing.
said he was a member of the Grand Committee on Law. His experience was that the Grand Committee on Trade had done its work exceedingly well, and had materially lightened the duties of the House. It was true that the attendance at the sittings of the Grand Committee on Law had not been quite so numerous as in the other case, but that was probably due to the fact that the number of lawyers on the Committee was disproportionately large, and they all knew very well that the House of Commons and the British Constitution had to adapt themselves absolutely and entirely to the exigencies of their legal work. He was not disposed to surrender these Standing Committees simply because a few lawyers did not attend so often as they ought. The point should not be raised in the way his hon, friend had raised it. If they were to consider whether the Grand Committees should be abolished, let them have a separate and distinct motion, and all the facts placed before the House. The hon. Member pointed out that by having Bills considered in the Grand Committees the time of the House was economised. They could have too much discussion in the House of Commons. He thought the Government would not force Bills through Committee by using their majority unduly.
said his experience as a member of the Grand Committee on Law was that on some occasions, not many, they found difficulty in getting a quorum. On one occasion when the County Councils Consolidation Bill was before the Committee he had a private interview with respect to some Amendments he had on the Paper with the then Attorney General, who had charge of the measure. The learned Gentleman told him that the Amendments were very good, and two or three of them excellent. He said he would be glad to assist him in passing them in the Grand Committee, but that there was no chance whatever of doing it, because there were too many lawyers on it. If the House pressed him he would state who expressed that opinion [Cries of "Name."] It was the present Lord Chief Justice. He moved his Amendments, and not one of them was
|Allen, Charles P (Glouc., Stroud||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Redmond, John (Waterford)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Grant, Corrie||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Groves, James Grimble||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Bell, Richard||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Bignold, Arthur||Horniman, Frederick John||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Boland, John||Joues, William (Carnarvonsh.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Joyce, Michael||Sullivan, Donal|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Lay land-Barratt, Francis||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Burns, John||Levy, Maurice||Warde, Col. C. E.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Lloyd-George, David||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Wodehouse, Hn. Armine (Ess'x|
|Cremer, William Randal||More, Robert J. (Shropshire)||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Culliman, J.||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.|
|Doogan, P. C.||Murphy, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Emmott, Olfred||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Mr. Haviland-Burke.|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Malley, William|
|Garfit, William||Reckitt, Harold James|
passed by the, Grand Committee on Law. He believed the occasional difficulty in getting a quorum was not owing to any disinclination on the part of Members to attend, but because they found it practically impossible to do so. First of all, the Selection Committee made the mistake of giving Members too much to do by making them members of too many Committees. That was the real cause of the difficulty which was found in getting a quorum. He merely rose to controvert the statement made by the hon. Member for Peckham that it was very frequently found exceedingly difficult to get a quorum on the Committees. He ventured to say that some of the best Bills passed by the House owed their existence on the Statute-book to the efforts made by the Grand Committees on Law and Trade.
said he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for East Clare that the majority of the Members of the House had not expected to be called upon that night to consider the constitutional change proposed by the hon. Baronet opposite. The Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition were both absent, and he thought the hon. Baronet would only be acting fairly if he withdrew the motion now and brought it forward at a more suitable, time. He would vote against the motion if it went to a division.
Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Standing Order."
The House divided:—Ayes, 46; Noes, 82. (Division List No. 124.)
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex, F.||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Grenfell, William Henry||Platt-Higgins, Frederick-|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Gretton, John||Purvis, Robert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||Ratcliffe, R. F.|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Rigg, Richard|
|Beach, Rt Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol)||Harwood, George||Robertson, Herbt. (Hackney)|
|Bill, Charles||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Round, James|
|Boulnois, Edward||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Lawrence, William F.||Seely, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, John Grant||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Carlile, William Walter||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Spear, John Ward|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derliysh.)||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C R (Northants|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lowe, Francis William||Strachey, Edward|
|Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Valentia, Viscount|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles K.||Macartney, Rt Hn W. G. Ellison||Vincent, Col. Sir C E H (Sheffield|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Macdona, John Cumming||Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E (Taunton|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Majendie, James A. H.||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Massey-Mainwairing. Hn W. F.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Milward, Colonel Victor||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute)|
|Fitz Gerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Flower, Ernest||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Sir Francis Powell and Mr. Tomlinson.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Peel, Hon. Wm. Robert W.|
Question put, "That those words be there added to the Standing Order."
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Fuller, J. M. F.||Pilkinngton, Richard|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Purvis, Robert|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Ratcliffe, R. F.|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds||Grenfell, William Henry||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gretton, John||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Bill, Charles||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Round, James|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Harwood, George||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Horniman, Frederick John||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Caldwell, James||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Carlile, William Walter||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Lawrence, William F.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Lawson, John Grant||Spear, John Ward|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Legge, Col. Hon. Haneage||Spencer, Rt Hn. C. R. (North'nts|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Wore.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Strachey, Edward|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Lowe, Francis William||Valentia, Viscount|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmo'th)||Vincent, Col. Sir C E H. (Sheffield|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Macartney, Rt. Hn. W G Ellison||Welby, Lt.-Col. A C E. (Taunton|
|Cremer, William Randal||Macdona, John Cumming||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Milward, Colonol Victor||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-|
|Dunn, Sir William||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Evans, Sir V. H. (Maidstone)||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.||Nicol, Donald Ninian||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir Francis Powell and Mr. Tomlinson.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley|
|Flower, Ernest||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Allen, Chas. P. (Glouc., Stroud||Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Boland, Arthur|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bignold, Arthur||Bolton, Thomas Dolling|
The House divided:—Ayes, 85; Noes 41. (Division List No. 125.)
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seal-||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Burke, E. Haviland||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Joyce, Michael||Rigg, Richard|
|Condon, Thomas||Levy, Maurice||Sullivan, Donal|
|Cullinan, J.||Lloyd-George, David||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Doogan, P. C.||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Warde, Col. C. E.|
|Emmott, Alfred||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Ffrench, Peter||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Wodehouse, Hon. A. (Essex)|
|Garfit, William||Murphy, J.||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Malley, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Groves, James Grimble||Reckitt, Harold James||Mr. Patrick O'Brien and Mr. John Burns.|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)|
Ordered, That all Bills which shall have been committed to one of the said Standing Committees shall, when reported to the House, be proceeded with as if they had been reported from a Committee of the Whole House: Provided only, that all Bills reported from a Standing Committee, whether amended or not, shall be considered on report by the House without question put, unless the Member in charge thereof desire to postpone its consideration or a motion be made to re-commit the Bill.
China Crisis—Russia And Manchuria
I do not propose to detain the House long upon the subject that I have placed upon the Paper. I consider there is ample justification for that motion in the fact that when this question was before the House last week there was no practical declaration made on the part of the Government. I do not wish to press the Government even to-night for an elaborate declaration with regard to China. I only wish to impress upon them that if they fail to do their duty with regard to the present position in the Far East, if they allow Russia to obtain control of the north-eastern part of China, they will not be readily forgiven by the people of this country. The mistakes of the Government in South Africa have been sufficiently serious; they have lost opportunities of settling the South African question and preventing enormous expenditure of blood and treasure; and the country will not stand a similar experience with regard to China. I ventured to suggest the other day that the Government had the dealing with this question in their own hands. They hold all the cards if they will only play them with courage and determination. The principal card is the position and the temper of the great nation of Japan. If the Government are willing to use Japan as they may, they have nothing to fear, and there is no danger of or necessity for war. But I am very much afraid that the Government will hesitate to give that support in resisting this Russian encroachment which Japan expects from us. It is necessary that the ring should be kept for Japan at sea in the event of force being necessary; and unless the Government are willing to give a pledge of that support I am afraid the Japanese will be forced into an alliance with Russia rather than with us. A very remarkable article appeared in a Russian paper three or four days ago, which says:—
and so on. That article shows the danger which we incur if we hesitate to give the necessary encouragement to Japanese policy at this time. The Russians can offer a great deal to Japan, and they will not hesitate to do so, if necessary to prevent the Japanese pursuing a policy favourable to this country. That is the danger. We must offer something to Japan. No doubt the Government will hesitate and say that nothing can be offered. I do not expect them to make public the offer. I only wish the country to notice the way in which the Government can solve this important question without danger or difficulty. They can offer Japan a protectorate over Korea. That would be a great boon to the Japanese. Korea, in a sense, is a necessity to Japan. Japan requires a close connection with Korea to feed her people and to provide a place of occupation for her surplus population. Such a course would do no injury to anyone in Asia. It would establish a permanent bulwark there against the further advance of Russia southward. For that purpose I suggest it to the Government. I do not expect them to proclaim this policy at once, but I warn them most emphatically that if the same course is pursued in this north-eastern China question as has been followed in South Africa, the result will be exceedingly serious for them and for the great party which they represent. There is one other subject to which I wish to call attention, and that is the necessity of encouraging the party of reform in China. The one part of the speech of the Foreign Secretary the other night to which I take exception, is the cold water that he threw upon the possibility of the British Government supporting the reform movement in China. It should be one of the first objects of our policy to support the party which is anxious to establish administrative and general reforms in that country. Unless His Majesty's Government take the lead in that direction there can be little hope for China. It has always been and is still the policy of our great rival in the East to prevent reforms in China, to keep the Government there thoroughly corrupt and rotten, in order that when the favourable moment comes China may fall more readily a prey to her ambitions. That is the policy which Russia has pursued with regard to Turkey for the last fifty years. Ever since, and even before, the Crimean War that was her policy with regard to Turkey. Seventy years ago there was in Turkey a great reforming Sultan, Mahmud II., and if he had been allowed his way the history of Turkey would have been very different. But the moment Russia saw that reforms were likely to be effected she forced war upon Turkey, and destroyed Mahmud's power and all hope of reform. Precisely the same policy is being pursued by Russia in China to-day. On the one hand, she is massacring the Chinese people and destroying the Chinese Army: on the other hand, she is holding out the arm of her protection to the corrupt coterie at court, doing her utmost to persuade the corrupt and tyrannical clique that has too long ruled over China that she is China's friend, and that if they will play the Russian game she will support them."It is only from Russia that Japan can look for any genuine help; she cannot count on any other Power, least of all upon England. At the present moment, in the most shameless manner, the English are trying to raise Japan against Russia"—
Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present.
Mr. Speaker, nearly all the Cabinet are standing behind your Chair; why do they not come in?
House counted, and forty Members being found present—
I am not surprised at the attitude of the Government; it is quite on a par with the underhand methods which have been adopted, I am sorry to say, by some leaders of the great party to which I belong to choke off discussions on important subjects. I am very glad that that very carefully organised attempt to count out the House failed. I think it was unworthy of those who planned it. I was calling the attention of the House to the great importance of supporting the party of reform in China. The other day the Foreign Secretary tried to draw a distinction between principles and details upon this question, and he seemed to think that if we got the principles we might abandon the details. But in Chinese affairs the truth is just the reverse, for there it is the details that count. We used to hear a good deal about the principle of Free Trade in China, but nevertheless the Russians got Port Arthur. We heard a great deal about the policy of the open door and open ports, but the fact that the Russians have political and military control of Manchuria, is far more valuable to them than all this vague talk about open doors is to us. We were told that we were going to have all our trade rights in the Yang-tsze Valley and other parts of China protected, but, nevertheless, a great Power like Russia manages to obtain direct control of the North-East of China, and will, if she is allowed to remain in possession there, obtain control of all China. In conclusion, I say that now is the time for the Government to act. It is not necessary for them to say publicly that they are going to act, or to make any strong statement with regard to the question. I do not care how considerate their language towards Russia is, but what we do want from the Government are acts and not words. We want them to take up this question before it is too late. We want them to take it up before Russia gets permanent control of Manchuria and conscripts a large army there, which would enable her to conquer all China, and indeed all Asia. We want to see China strong and fortified, so that she can resist the attack when it comes. We do not want this question put off, as the South African question was put off, until it has cost this country £130,000,000 and a terrible loss of life. That is the policy which I venture to urge upon His Majesty's Government. The action which I recommend is not in favour of war, or of threatening war, but is the most peaceful action which the Government could take; for it is the neglect of these questions which causes war. Those persons who would put off dealing with these dangers, who would keep silent about them and who would keep the country uninformed about them, are the real advocates of war and the enemies of peace. Several of my hon. friends have told me that my motion is one which is likely to lead to war, but I deny it. I advocate a policy of peace, a peace made certain by timely precautions, a peace with strength, and a peace with honour. I beg to move the resolution standing in my name,
I rise to second this resolution, and I wish to call the attention of the Government to be rather serious aspect of the question so far as it affects the county of Lancashire. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated in reply to a question that, according to the versions the Government has seen, the suggested Agreement between China and Russia apparently affects British Trade interests only in those parts of the Chinese Empire to which the Agreement applied. China is the second largest customer Lancashire possesses in regard to cotton manufactures, and the people of Lancashire feel that if the Agreement is allowed to be concluded it will start a principle full of danger and threatening to their trade. The noble Lord may say that the Lancashire trade with Manchuria is not very great. I grant that; but, if we allow the principle that any portion of the Chinese Empire can be detached from our trade, there is no reason why the principle should not be carried further. It is said that we stand by the principle of the open door, but we know that we have spent much blood and treasure in order to secure our trade privileges in China, and if those privileges are lost to us in one province, it is no equivalent to say that we have got a special sphere of influence elsewhere. We already possess extensive trade privileges, and we do not want to lose those privileges in any portion of the Chinese Empire. It is not so much a question as to how wide the door in China is open if we can get through it, but it is a question as to the size of the garden on the other side after we have got through. If the garden is made smaller it is no use making the door wider. In Lancashire we recognise the difficulty of the problem, which has existed for the last fifty years. We hear of the existence of the European Concert, but the fact remains that Russia, while a member of the Concert, has been going behind the backs of the other members and secretly negotiating arrangements with China. This is not the kind of conduct which is likely to inspire you with confidence for the future. When a member of any firm goes behind your back and attempts to negotiate an arrangement privately, it makes you full of suspicion regarding his future conduct. The noble Lord says that he absolutely begged Russia to tell us, and that Russia is not only negotiating, but she persists in secretly withholding all information on the subject. In view of the attitude of Russia he thinks we are justified in being anxious and watchful and in taking some firm stand if occasion should necessitate it. The noble Lord also said that the Boxer movement was a surprise to everybody. I do not think it was. I think it shows; the existence of some national spirit in China. One nation steps in and takes possession of the Chinaman's front sitting rooms, another take s his back sitting rooms, and then another comes along and demands his bedrooms, and under these circumstances, I think it is to the credit of the Chinese that they resent this conduct, and it gives some hope for the future. I do not want the Government to be dragged by Germany or any other Power into exacting too severe terms from China. The Government must make up its mind to one of two courses. Either you are going to displace the present Government of China, or you are going to keep it. If you are going to displace it you are going to take on a thing which is far beyond the power of this Government to carry out. If you are going to retain the present form of government in China, what is the interest of England in the matter? Why to keep that Government strong. I hope the Government will not exact from China any kind of penalty which would permanently weaken her, because that would injure us in Lancashire, and would also injure the whole country. I ask, firstly, that the Government will see that no portion of our present trade privileges are taken away in any portion of China; and, secondly, that they will not insist upon any punishment or penalty which will be calculated to weaken the power of the Chinese Government in controlling the affairs of that vast empire.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That no settlement of the present Crisis in China will be satisfactory to this House that does not completely exclude Russian military and political control from Manchuria."—( Sir E. Ashmead-Bartlett.)
I should like to add my testimony to what has been stated by the hon. Member who spoke last. I did not have the advantage of hearing the speech of the hon. Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield, and I do not know whether I should have been in order in proposing an Amendment to his motion. Had I been in order I intended to move an Amendment in favour of the southern viceroys being supported. While there is no doubt that the action of Russia in the northern part of China has aroused suspicions which are well warranted, and while there is no doubt that it is the bounden duty of the Government to take every precaution to see, that our interests in northern China are not injured, at the same time I am bound to say that, in my opinion, it is far better to leave those matters at the present stage in the hands of the Government. Turning to the Amendment which I should have moved had I been in order, I would like to point out that, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, the Government missed a golden opportunity in the centre of China before the troubles in the North of China reached their climax. I think I am correct in saying that before the outbreak attained any great proportions the Viceroy of Nanking offered to our Government the joint occupation of the forts of the Yang-tsze. Consider, for a moment, the position our Government occupies in Central China. We had proclaimed that we occupied a special position there, owing to our great trade interests. We had proclaimed that on several occasions. I think I am right in saying that in 1894 the late Liberal Government, in so many words, warned Japan from the Yang-tsze territory, and by our understanding with China that she should not alienate any of the Yang-tsze region we again told the world that we had special interests in that portion of China. By the agreement between German merchants and the merchants of our country we arrived at an understanding that the Yang-tsze region was to be considered as our sphere of railway development, and we had a further agreement with Russia on the same lines, namely, that we were to have the Yang-tsze region for railway development and Russia, was to have Manchuria for railway development. That showed conclusively our special position in the Yang-tsze valley. When the trouble broke out, the Government was offered possession of these forts, and it appears to me from the position they held and the responsibility they had assumed, they were bound, in the interests of all countries concerned, to have occupied those forts. They let, however, the offer go by, and the trouble increased, but there is good reason to suppose that the viceroys of Central China would have been strengthened in the position they took up against the evil influences of Peking if that offer had been accepted, and that in all probability the troubles in Peking itself would never have reached the disastrous volume they did. Another opportunity was found when negotiations were entered into between ourselves and the, court. Who were the proper people through whom to negotiate? Why, surely the viceroys of Central China, who had stood by us through all the troubles. Were they not, the people to have represented the court of Peking in these negotiations? What did we do? We went to Li Hung Chang and other persons, not certainly of the best repute, and another opportunity went by. If we had had the influence of these viceroys we should have strengthened our position. They were advocates of reform, and we should have given them a, commanding position to enable them to deal with Peking. We have one more opportunity before us. Lord Lansdowne stated the other day, in another place, that it was not our business to force reform upon China. I know of no one who has ever ventured to suggest that reform should be forced on China, but I know those who suggest that reform should be offered to China, and that people who are capable of carrying out those reforms might, if required, be lent to China. That is quite a different tiling. The people who use this argument appear to me to assume that all China is against reform. I notice that the hon. Member for Bolton assumes that the Boxer movement was a national movement. Those who are best qualified to judge say that the Boxer movement was not a national movement at all. They say, on the contrary, that it was engineered by the Manchu party, who saw their privileges slipping from their grasp, and who utilised the disorderly element in order to recover the privileges they thought they were losing. The best proof of that is that wherever viceroys or governors were well disposed towards foreigners the people did not rise against them. If the movement were a national movement, would a single foreigner—man, woman, or child—have escaped? But there is to-day in China a national movement. It is a movement organised against what is believed to be the aggressive action of Russia in the north. That is a genuine national movement, and when people look forward with horror to the advance of Russia, I look forward to the day when China, having reformed herself, will be able to meet any enemy who may approach her from the north.
We must help China.
My hon. friend says, we must help China. Yes, we will have to help China to help herself. I have said just now that the Chinese people are not adverse to reform. It is well known that many Chinese, hold property registered under foreign names. They take advantage of foreign law because they consider it better than their own. A remarkable book, which I think everybody interested in China ought to read, was recently published. It was written by one of the great viceroys of China, and it is called "The Only Hope of China." That book displays a marvellous knowledge of all that is best for a nation—education, literature, languages, railway development, and everything that goes to the development of a nation—and it has been received by the Emperor with the highest approval, and he has ordered it to be distributed all through China. Is a man like that viceroy opposed to reform? The leaders are in favour of reform, and why, therefore, do we not go a little further and see that the viceroys of the Yang-tsze Province shall have the right given them to carry out in their own province the reforms for which they have memorialised the Throne? If we did that we would strengthen the position of the viceroys enormously, and give new life to China. They should be allowed to carry out these reforms, and also be given a sufficient tenure of office for the purpose. The Government have the opportunity of making it an integral part of the settlement that these viceroys should be given that power.
The hon. Member must remember that the question before the House is the position of Russia in Manchuria. A great deal of what he is now saying is not relevant to that question.
I apologise for having trespassed beyond the limits of the motion. I will conclude by saying that, as stated in the book to which I have referred, this Government and all other Governments in dealing with China have shown a slipshod, drifting attitude, and a habit of depending on mere fortuitous success.
The hon. Member for Bolton in seconding this resolution never referred to the question of Manchuria at all. I will confine myself strictly to the motion, and I wish to give my views to the House as to why it should not be accepted. Manchuria is really a vague geographical expression. I doubt very much whether any Member of this House or any person outside it could really define the geographical boundaries of political Manchuria. When we discuss the resolution with the object of compelling another Power to be excluded from a certain territory, it is extremely important that we should be perfectly clear in our own minds what that means. If we do not know the present political boundaries ourselves, then it is only waste of time to discuss such a resolution as this.
I know them perfectly well.
My hon. friend says that he knows there perfectly well. I am very glad to hear it. I would ask him does his resolution mean that no settlement will be satisfactory that does not exclude Russia from acquiring more of Manchuria than she now has, or does he mean that no settlement will be satisfactory that does not turn out Russia from the portions of Manchuria she has long held? I wish to deal with this question of the Russian advance in Manchuria, and with the circumstances which have led up to the present state of affairs. In the press, and even in this House the position of Russia in Manchuria is discussed as if it were a question of yesterday, or the day before. I will give the Mouse, as briefly as I can, a sketch of the persistent advance of Russia from Europe to Manchuria for the purpose of getting to the sea on the sunny side of Siberian territory in order to have open ports. It was a definite, persistent policy, and it is important with reference to this question that we should remember that we are not dealing with a series of questions which have suddenly arisen, but that we are dealing with a policy which has conic down through generations to the present time. It was during the reign of Henry VIII. that the Russians first began to move eastward. At the time of the Spanish Armada they got so far eastward as to be able to found Tobolsk. In the reign of Charles I. there was a great expedition to the Upper Amur, and later another expedition penetrated further eastward, and attempted to occupy this very region of Manchuria. That expedition, with all its gallantry and all its persistency, was almost completely destroyed with the exception of forty-seven, who were taken prisoners to Peking, and founded the Russian college in that city, which has had a continuous history up to the present time. Then followed another expedition which went still further east, and founded Nerchinsk. That was about the time that Bombay was ceded to England, so that Russia was advancing towards the Pacific Ocean before we had established ourselves at Bombay. Still pushing on, the Russians made a settlement at Albazin, on the upper reaches of the Amur, but that settlement was wiped out by the Manchus, and the 5,000 gallant men composing it were massacred. Manchuria is really the water-shed of the Amur, and the Amur is the key of the whole position. During the reign of William III. the Russians approached the position from the sea. They acquired Kamskatka in 1728, and explored the coast, with the result that they acquired that territory which they recently transferred to America Alaska. The next interesting point occurred at the commencement of the last century. They tried to extend their position, but they were shut out by Manchuria and China from actual contact with the sea territorially. In the year of Trafalgar the Russian Hag was hoisted on the Island of Saghalien. This was a persistent policy, characterised by great energy, great gallantry and great perseverance on the part of Russia, though often attended by defeat and disaster. In dealing with this question it is important we should have an historical outline of the persistency of Russia and a knowledge of the fact that Russia occupied these regions two or three times and suffered defeat in her attempts to hold them. Now as to modern times, during the Crimean War a great Russian general was at the furthest eastward position on the Amur, 2,000 miles from the sea, while we were marching the Guards through London and were preparing to meet Russia in the Crimea. He cast guns and made ammunition there, and built barges and a steamer to tow them. The, Russians, with a splendid conception of strategy, which they accomplished in a most wonderful way, were preparing to extend their territory to the sea which for centuries she had fought and bled to attain. At the eastward point I have mentioned boats and barges were built thus to go straight down the Amur. They did not go to the mouth of the river, but crossed over where the Amur takes a bend, and arrived at a place now known as Port Imperial. Our fleet was already in search of the Russian fleet, in the summer of 1854, which was known to be in the Pacific. We could not discover it, and the fleet wore instructed to ascertain if the Russian ships had taken shelter in the vicinity of Petro-paulovski in Kamskatka. The combined fleets of England and France sailed one morning into the bay. They found it commanded by five Russian forts swarming with Russian soldiers, and the Russian fleet under cover of the guns of the forts. I am not going to abide to that disastrous affair in naval history. Our Admiral shot himself going into action, and the ultimate result was that we had to retire. We could not take the ships, and we tried to take the forts, but we could not do it. We lost heavily and had to withdraw. People were then full of the Crimea, and did not; hear much about it, but next year the Governments of England and France, being determined to wipe out the disaster, sent out a powerful fleet. The ships were ordered not to advance into the bay until the whole force was assembled, but many weeks elapsed after the arrival of the first ship at the rendezvous, 100 miles south of the bay. During these weeks the Russian ships passed within fifty miles of our fleet without being seen, and when our fleet sailed into the bay they found the forts dismantled, the ships gone, and; the inhabitants selling trophies of our defeat. Another squadron was sent to Saghalien. One Sunday morning they saw in Castries Bay the whole Russian fleet. Our force was a weak one, and sailed away south to give information, but they did not leave a watch, with the result that when they looked in again a week later they found the Russians had left. During all those years Russian policy was to come to a very distinct understanding with China with regard to certain portions of territory, but they always left that portion of boundary nearest the sea undefined. The treaty confirming what they had taken of Manchuria in 1855 was not ratified by China until we met with that unfortunate disaster of our unsuccessful attack on the Taku Forts in 1859. The Russian admiral used his friendly offices for us with the, Chinese. What he really did was to pull the rejected treaty out of his pocket and call on China to sign it. Ever since that time Russia has been gradually extending her territory down towards the north of China. Is this House going to pass a resolution to exclude Russia from the territory which she has occupied in Manchuria for years, and which she has gained at the expenditure of blood and treasure. I cannot understand anyone knowing history bringing forward any such resolution as this. The policy suggested by it is an impossible policy. You cannot get the Powers to engage in a policy to turn Russia out of Manchuria, where she has established herself by a persistent policy pursued generation after generation, and it is ridiculous to talk about it. What is the alternative? The alternative is to recollect that Russia has been forced onward on her land destiny, as we have been forced onward on our sea destiny, and to see that our interests and trade rights are not adversely affected by Russia being in Manchuria on the sea, on the rivers, and at Chinese ports.
It being midnight, the, debate stood adjourned.
Adjourned at one minute after Twelve of the clock till Thursday, 18th April.