Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
said he wished to raise the question of the policy of the War Office as regarded the Piershill Barracks and the Tidworth Barracks. He had been partly induced to take this step by the attitude of the Secretary of State for War himself, who in spite of the public importance of these questions had done his best to obscure the issue and arouse prejudice. One might think the right hon. Gentleman was fearful lest the whole case was presented to the House and the public, and when one considered the different cases, which he might describe as scandalous, the right hon. Gentleman had very good reason for such alarm. First he would take the case of Piershill Barracks, the history of the policy in respect of which by this and other Governments was a somewhat long and complicated one. Piershill Barracks was one of those barracks of which, unfortunately, a large number existed, whose position and surroundings were not such as the War Office would now select if they were choosing a site. It had never been denied so far as he knew that the site in question was unsatisfactory. On one side, he understood, it had a railway station and on the other a sewage farm, and it would be hard to find a site more ill-adapted for a barracks. He did not blame the Secretary of State for War or the Government for the posi- tion of the barracks. Undoubtedly it was part of the general policy of successive Secretaries of State for War, and it was one of the gravest questions in connection with the administration of the department as to how barracks were to be adapted to modern requirements and whether barracks in unsuitable places, surrounded by unsatisfactory buildings in closely populated neighbourhoods, were to be disposed of. The Government had made out-of-date barracks worse than before by refusing to sanction any expenditure on barracks unless it came out of estimates. It was that action on the part of the Government last year which had made this particular question more difficult than it was before. Coming to the more modern history of Piershill, questions were addressed last year to the War Office, relative to the health of the troops quartered at Piershill and as to the sanitary state of the barracks. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would not disagree with him when he said that, though he would not say there was any exceptional disease in the barracks, or that the disease could be traced to the barracks, he yet admitted that the barracks were in an insanitary condition. That was the position in June and July of last year, but the right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that there was nothing to be alarmed at. Then, suddenly the War Office awoke to the fact that the barracks were not fit for cavalry, and so they were removed. It was necessary to deal with a matter which, though not strictly relevant to the question, was yet necessary to make out a case, and a good case, as he believed, against the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the other day, in answering a question, endeavoured, as he believed, quite incorrectly, to throw on that side of the House the onus of having got the Scots Greys removed from Piershill. The matter had aroused a good deal of interest and excitement in Scotland, and had been taken up by a very distinguished gentleman, a former Member of the Liberal Party. The Secretary of State for War, the other day, in the course of an answer, said, pointing to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin, that it was at his request, and at the request of his friends sitting near him, that he removed the Scots Greys from Piershill. It was not a very fair statement. So far as he knew, there was no pressure from that side of the House to remove the Scots Greys from Piershill. They urged that the barracks should be put into a fair condition, or the cavalry removed. If the right hon. Gentleman was right in his statement that the Scots Greys were removed at the request of the Opposition, all he could say was that it reflected very little credit on the Government that they should allow a cavalry regiment to remain five years in insanitary barracks, and only remove them when the Opposition brought it to their notice. This affair became the more discreditable as time went on. He did not believe it was due to any action which they took on that side of the House that the Scots Greys were removed; he did not know what it was that moved the right hon. Gentleman. But whatever it was, the fact remained that he suddenly awoke to the fact that the Piershill Barracks were unfit for a cavalry station, and he therefore removed the cavalry. He had directed some questions towards ascertaining, if possible, what the right hon. Gentleman and the War Office intended to do with the Piershill site, but they had the usual difficulty in ascertaining what the policy of the War Office would be. They were told—as they were getting accustomed to be told by the War Department—that the question was under consideration, and that the right hon. Gentleman hoped a Memorandum would be published, and Papers laid on the Table, within a month or so; at last they found out that it was not intended that any more cavalry should be sent to Piershill, but that it was intended to send artillery there. Then the right hon. Gentleman was asked to explain why barracks, unfit for cavalry, were fitted for an artillery station. He replied that, although they were unfitted for cavalry, they were fit for a few artillery. That was one of the most inexplicable features in the mystery with which the Government had surrounded these barracks. Why barracks unfit for cavalry should be fit for artillery passed his comprehension. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman when this artillery regiment, which, he understood, he proposed to, send to Piershill, was going there; and what exactly he was going to do with the barracks in the way of repairs? He believed it was stated that £2,000 was being spent to make the barracks—which, in the opinion of the War Office were not fit for cavalry—suitable to artillery, to be stationed there in the month of December. He did not think, whatever the right hon. Gentleman's answer was, that he would really dispose of the main objections to Piershill Barracks, namely, the objection to the site, the unsalubrious barracks, and the fact that a sewage farm was situated in the neighbourhood. He desired to ask another question, and that was with reference to Tidworth Barracks. The right hon. Gentleman had done his best throughout to create prejudice, and to insinuate that they on that side of the House, who asked Questions, were acting in a fashion contrary to the wishes of the Scots Greys; and not getting any support from his own side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman got the very valuable support of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway. It was no part of his business, or of any other hon. Member's business, to inquire whether or not the Scots Greys disapproved of his act. The Scots Greys were a gallant regiment, and however much they approved or disapproved of his action, yet, if asked to camp out in Palace Yard, they would not express their approval or disapproval, but carry out their orders as good soldiers. The question was not whether this or any other regiment approved or disapproved of the action of the War Office; the point was that they on that side of the House or any other hon. Members had a perfect right to inquire into War Office administration, and into the curious methods adopted by them of spending money in promoting efficiency. It was not a question connected with the regiment themselves. The right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to insinuate that the Opposition had not the support of the officers of the Scots Greys. It was no part of the business of the Opposition whether they had or not. The hon. Member for South Down made some remarks about feather beds and other things. He was surprised at his questions, as he thought he knew more about plank beds than about feather beds. He could only congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the efficient allies which he had got. After all, it was not a matter of whether any officer or man in the regiment approved or disapproved of their action. The question was really one of War Office administration, and they were perfectly entitled to point out that the War Office had really advanced very little in efficiency since prior to the South African War. The same colossal blundering and red tapeism pervaded all their actions, as it had done for the last fifty years. He wanted also to refer to the barrack accommodation at Tidworth. When the War Office came to the very tardy decision that Piershill Barracks were not sufficient for cavalry, the 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys) were removed to Tidworth Barracks, at Salisbury. Tidworth had not sufficient accommodation for the officers of the cavalry regiments, and consequently two of them had encamped in tents somewhere in the barrack square. He put a question to the right hon. Gentleman, and he felt a distinct grievance as to the answer. He asked where these two officers, at present sleeping in tents, were to sleep during the winter, and the right hon. Gentleman immediately arose, and with dramatic gesture, turning to his supporters behind him, said he did not think the officers of the regiment would be particularly grateful to the noble Lord for the question. He was perfectly entitled to hold that view, but it was not an answer to his question. Many discrepancies had occurred in the answers given to his questions. The Financial Secretary told him there was not sufficient accommodation for all the officers at Tidworth, and that two of them would be placed on the lodging list. He asked what that meant, and, in the airy way characteristic of the War Office, was told, "Oh, somewhere in the town." As a matter of fact, there was no town there at all, but, of course, that was only a small point, so far as the War Office was concerned. They could not expect any regiment like the one in question to inhabit barracks in which there was not sufficient accommodation for the officers nor for the horses. Where were the officers of the Scots Greys to be accommodated during the winter months? Where were these two officers to be accommodated? The hon. Gentleman on one occasion gave him the following strange reply—strange having regard to the circumstances of the case—
This was the only answer that had been given him. He would go on to another matter. He had said the horses of the regiment were quartered in front of the barracks and some time ago asked what was proposed to be done with these horses during the winter months. The right hon. Gentleman then answered that he was sending the horses to the Cavalry Barracks at Bulford Camp; the stables were about to be built for them—he would ask the hon. Gentleman to remember these words. Some weeks later he (Viscount Tumour) asked had the stables yet been commenced. The reply was that the right hon. Gentleman was surprised that the noble Lord should think barracks could be built at once, but he believed that they would be ready in six weeks. That occurred ten days ago. He had the opportunity on Sunday of following the distinguished precedent of the right hon. Gentleman who on his Sunday walks went as far as Windsor barracks. He (Viscount Tumour) visited Tidworth barracks to see whether the promised stables had yet been commenced. He succeeded in ascertaining that the barracks had not been commenced. The only sign of a beginning was some fifty little pegs which had been set up on a spot which was more unsuitable than any he had ever seen for building stables. But that was another story. The main fact was that all the promises which had been made as to building stables resolved itself into this— that last week a surveyor had gone to the spot and had put down fifty little pegs. How was the right hon. Gentleman in a position to say a month ago that stables were about to be built there, when at that time the ground had not even been surveyed? He had asked a question that day as to what provision the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make for the travelling expenses to be given to the officers, non-commissioned officers and men, of the Scots Greys for their daily journeys between Tidworth and Bulford. The hon. Gentleman said he was unable to answer because it was impossible to make a detailed statement. He (Viscount Tumour) then asked whether or not it was the case that the horses of the regiment would be sent to Bulford, and the hon. Gentleman replied they would not be sent to Bulford if the barracks at Tidworth were ready. But these barracks had not been commenced, and as this was an undertaking of considerable magnitude it was not likely they would be ready before the winter. Some considerable accommodation must be found in which to place the horses of the Scots Greys during the coming winter. He asked again where did the hon. Gentleman propose to place them, and what arrangement did he propose to make for the travelling expenses of the men between Tidworth and Bulford. To-day the hon. Gentleman was unable to give an answer and said the question was hypothetical. The hon. Gentleman would not give an answer for the very simple reason that he knew such a state of affairs had never occurred before in the very worst administration or under the most retrograde War Office as that a cavalry regiment should be stationed at one place and their horses five miles away. These facts showed that despite everything, despite the improvement in the Army, and improvement in efficiency since the war, the War Office had not advanced one yard since the last general election when so many speeches were made about efficiency and the impossibility of getting an Army without proper expenditure. While the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had been making elaborate schemes for a new Army they had allowed the serious errors to take place which had occurred at Tidworth and Piershill. The worst phase of the question had been the extraordinary reluctance of the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to give any information about these matters. They had withheld all information from the House for two very good reasons. The first was that they had no information to give. The second was that if they had given any answer they would have laid themselves open to criticism from hon. Members on both sides of the House. He would appeal to the hon. Gentlemen to tell the House what circumstances had occurred within the last few months to cause him to decide that Piershill could be made a proper barracks, and what he proposed to do there to make the barracks fit for artillery. The second question he would repeat again. It might not be quite clear."These two questions deal with the arrangements that may be necessary for the quartering of the regiment during the coming winter, on which it would be impossible to make any detailed statement."
The noble Lord is not entitled to go on repeating the same question. I think I have heard the same question now four or five times.
,continuing, said he bowed to the Speaker's ruling. His only reason for having gone over the questions twice was that it was rather difficult to make them clear owing to the complications of the matter. There was another point which he wished to put to the hon. Gentleman. What steps was it proposed to take in connection with barracks in general to put them in a sanitary state for troops? For instance, the Barracks at Brighton were not in a sanitary state. There was another matter upon which he desired information. Without going into the reason for or against brigading cavalry he wished to ask whether that part of the War Office policy was to be carried out. If that was the reason for sending the Scots Greys to Tidworth he admitted that a great deal of objection to the regiment being stationed there fell to the ground. There was only one other question in regard to army administration which he would put, although there were a great many which might be raised. He understood it had been the habit lately on manoeuvres for the artillery to make use of a kind of firework to which a fuse was set and which exploded on the ground. It certainly seemed an extraordinary way of training artillery at manoeuvres, and, unless the economy effected was great, it seemed that it would have been better to have allowed the artillery to continue the use of blank ammunition. This extraordinary firework, which rejoiced in the name of puff-ball, had only been in use about a year, and he wanted to know what was the exact saving or the approximate saving on these puff-balls.
said the noble Lord informed him after Questions that he desired on this Bill to call attention to certain alleged discrepancies between the answers given by the Secretary of State for War to questions addressed to him with regard to the Scots Greys and Tidworth Barracks. He told the noble Lord that unfortunately the Secretary of State would be unable to be present because he was engaged on important Army business in the country. He did not think the House would expect him at that hour of the morning to go into the larger question adumbrated in the latter part of the noble Lord's speech, viz., to express an opinion as to the barrack policy or general cavalry policy of the Government. The statements which his right hon. friend had already made on both these subjects were in the possession of the House. He did not think it was possible to add anything to the statements upon general matters that his right hon. friend had already made. Coming to the specific question which he understood the noble Lord was going to raise to-night, viz., Piershill and Tidworth Barracks, he could not agree with the noble Lord that the House had not had a good deal of discussion on the subject already, nor could he agree that the answers had not been full and complete. He would recapitulate the facts which were already well-known to those who took an interest in the subject. With regard to Piershill it had been said over and over again that the general rule which guided the distribution of cavalry and any other forces must be that they should be stationed where they were best suited for military purposes. The Scots Greys were removed from Piershill, and the Secretary of State announced the fact a good many months ago. He had informed the noble Lord that afternoon what had taken place at Piershill. There was a sum of £2,000 odd being spent on repairs to Piershill barracks. The workmen were engaged on the reconstruction of the barracks at the present moment, and it was intended that as soon as completed the barracks should be utilised. The original intention was to send the-Scots Greys to some other place, but it was afterwards decided to send them to Tidworth because there was a cavalry barracks there which had never been occupied, but which could easily be adapted to receive the cavalry regiments. It was largely with a view to meeting the objections that were made to putting the Scots Greys at Bulford that it was determined to erect stables for the reception of their horses. The contract had been given out, and the work already begun, and he had the latest information in the possession of the Department dated Friday last, stating that the work had begun, and the director of barracks had every confidence that these barracks would be completed and available for use at the end of September or the beginning of October. If the stables were not completed by the time the summer was over the horses would go into the stables now existing at Bulford. There was no intention, as the noble Lord assumed, of officers and men making three daily journeys between Tidworth and Bulford. A detachment of Scots Greys would, of course, go over with the horses to Bulford. It was merely a temporary arrangement.
said he wanted to ask a question of detail on a matter in regard to which he was in correspondence with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury some time ago. It would be within the knowledge of the House that the Government had sold the Small Arms Factory at Spark-brook in Birmingham, and though that had been a matter of grief to many people in the locality, frankly, as Member for a neighbouring constituency, he was not sorry that the Government were no longer the owners, for he thought the less the Government had to do with employes in one's constituency the better. But in getting rid of the factory at Sparkbrook, the Government had discharged a considerable number of men, among them a small number of pensionable foremen. The expectation held out to these men was that if they were deprived of their employment by the abolition of their office, and that saved expense to the State, they should have an addition of years made in calculating their pensions, so that if they did not get as much as they might have earned if they had been allowed to serve their full normal time in the ordinary course, they would get something more than they would have actually earned in the number of years they had served. In this case the Treasury had refused to make any addition. He knew how careful the Treasury had to be in such matters as this, but he thought they might sometimes be too careful. But there was something else they ought to think of also, and that was that when they were obliged to do a thing of this kind, which was the cause of some hardship, and a great deal of disappointment, and which made a breach in the expectations which a man might have legitimately entertained—if there was any doubt about the question, it ought to be decided in favour of the sufferers rather than of the Government. He heard a speech the other night from the hon. Member for Woolwich, dealing with the way discharges had been carried out at Woolwich, and alleging that people had been selected for discharge at a particular moment because keeping them a few weeks longer would have entitled them to a bonus. He did not for one moment believe that either a member of the Government or an official at Woolwich ever selected a man for discharge on that ground. He thought if there had been a doubt at all, they would have done their best to give them the few weeks needed to make up the seven years service. But he thought that in these matters the Government was not always sufficiently careful. He spoke in this matter with the responsibility of having been at the Treasury, though he was not now there. He thought the decision of the Treasury in the case of these Spark- brook foremen was very hard. He supposed the work which would have been carried on at Sparkbrook would now be carried on at Enfield, and that some additional expenses would be incurred there, which would otherwise have been incurred at Birmingham. He contended that the Government should consider the salaries of the pensionable officers and men as well as the mere question of saving money. It would have been a heartless and cruel thing to dismiss men at Sparkbrook merely to take on other men. Therefore, if they had dismissed these pensionable men at Enfield, he did not suppose they were going to take on other men in their place. Even if the Financial Secretary to the Treasury contended that he was within the letter of the law, he must admit that it was a very doubtful case, just on the margin; one in which there was a very little money consideration at stake, but a good deal of hardship and disappointment inflicted on the people in question, and he urged the Financial Secretary to reconsider the decision of the Treasury.
said he had looked very carefully into the case referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, .but he confessed he had not now a very clear recollection of the whole circumstances. He went fully into the matter at the time, and he wrote a great many letters on the subject—letters which were written after a great deal of anxious consideration on his part. He felt that some of the men were suffering considerable hardship, but he was bound by rule in the matter, and so was unable to make the allowance that was asked for. He found that some men had been transferred to Enfield, and also that the Enfield expenditure had gone up in consequence of their action at Sparkbrook. The two transactions were so closely allied that he found no other course open to him but to apply the rule to the men in question. He very much regretted if any hardship and suffering had been caused. There were two cases which the right hon. Gentleman brought to his notice, but, after giving them the full benefit of the doubt, he regretted that he had had to decide against them. The right hon. Gentleman, with his knowledge of the Treasury, would know how dangerous it would be if they were to decide definitely against the rule which had always been laid down.
say that this is a misinterpretation the rule.
said that he would not go very fully into the question of the rule that evening. If he had had any information that this matter was coming on he would have refreshed his memory on the point. But the rule in question was perfectly well known, and they had to abide by it.
called the attention of the House to what he conceived to be an extremely grave scandal connected with the appointment of a Public Trustee. In the last session of this Parliament an Act was passed called the Public Trustee Act. The first section of that Act provided that there should be an office of Public Trustee, and a subsequent section, towards the end of the Act, went on to explain that the way that office should be established was that the Lord Chancellor should formulate the rule establishing it, defining its scope and duties; and that that rule should lie on the Table of the House for thirty days, subject to an address to His Majesty to annul it if the House did not approve of it. The Act did not come into operation until the commencement of next year, consequently no one was surprised that, at the commencement of this session, nothing had been done towards formulating the rule. But as the session went on some curiosity arose as to whether or not the Act would ever become operative. A short time ago the Attorney-General was asked what was being done, and, to the intense astonishment of them all, they were told that matters were well in hand; and although the rules had not been laid on the Table, and although nothing had been done to put the machinery of the Act into operation, it was proposed to appoint a certain gentleman—Mr. C. J. Stewart—to the office of Public Trustee. That announcement, coming at the time when the office did not exist, and had not been established, took some of them by surprise. He subsequently called the attention of the Attorney-General to the fact that the office had not been created, and that the rule had not been laid on the Table, and he was told at the end of last month that it was intended to lay the rule. He gathered from the Votes and Proceedings that on the last day of last month the rule had been laid. But it was only that day that he was able to obtain a copy—not of the rule, but of the draft of the rule. Consequently, although twenty days out of the thirty had elapsed, nothing but the draft rule of the office was laid. The scandal he wished to speak about was the premature appointment of a gentleman to the office before the office was created, before any public information was given to the world that candidates might compete for it. There were one or two other suspicious circumstances connected with the matter. There was one extraordinary provision in the Act, which was not without great significance, especially when one referred to the debates which took place when the Bill was before the House. The Bill stated that—
There was a provision, therefore, that the Treasury were masters of the situation. If they came to the conclusion that the gentleman elected to discharge the duties of this important office should be someone in the public service, they had simply to make a request to the Lord Chancellor for his appointment. He put a question a few days ago to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, asking if any such requirement had been made, but he was answered in the negative. He then asked if it was the opinion of the Treasury, as it was of the Lord Chancellor, that the most fitting and competent person for the post was a gentleman who occupied the position of chairman of a brewery company? The answer he got was one delightfully characteristic of the type of mind on the Front Treasury Bench—"Any person appointed to be Public Trustee or officer of the Public Trustee may, and shall if the Treasury require, be a person already in the public service."
He congratulated the hon. Member upon his prospects of steady and continuous official promotion. What had happened appeared to be this, that for some reason, best known to the Lord Chancellor, it was suggested that not a moment was to be lost to secure the services of the gentleman who had already been in the public service years ago, who had thrown up his duties to take a semi-public position as Clerk to the London County Council, who had afterwards thrown up that position to assume the chairmanship of a brewery company, and who was now taken away from that position, over the heads of everybody in the public service and over the heads of every member of the legal and accountancy professions, to take up this post, which was created without the power of Parliament to use any supervision in the matter. They were entitled to ask why was the office created, and why was it being filled in such a way? Nothing was more distasteful or opposed to the traditions of the House than to make an attack on a gentleman who was unable to speak in defence. He desired to preface the few criticisms he wished to make by saying that, with regard to the gentleman to whom the office had been allotted, personally he knew nothing inconsistent with the view that in private life he was an estimable and honourable gentleman. But having said that, he asked the House to bear with him for a moment when he said that Mr. C. J. Stewart was some twelve years ago appointed Official Receiver in the Winding-up Department of the Board of Trade. In that capacity he regretted to say Mr. Stewart was a dismal and melancholy failure. It was his painful duty to hear one of His Majesty's most distinguished Judges say in open Court that Mr. Stewart was unfit for the position he held. Criticisms were also made by Sir Edward Clarke and by the present Attorney-General that he had allowed animus and spite and vindictiveness to enter into the discharge of his public duties. This was a very solemn charge to be made against a public official. In connection with the Liberator scandal it was notorious that valuable properties were sacrificed at ridiculously low figures. But he would put all that on one side. With regard to Mr. Stewart's duties on the London County Council, he knew nothing except that he left suddenly to assume the chairmanship of a brewery company. The evidence in his possession consisted of hundreds and hundreds of letters which he had received from people interested in that brewery since he took the matter up, and these. letters from every source showed that even in that capacity Mr. Stewart had been the very opposite of a commercial success. In these circumstances, why in that indecent hurry had he been chosen to fill the high position of Public Trustee? The Attorney-General had said that Mr. Stewart had not yet been actually appointed. He thought that, if the matter was investigated, he had had the appointment offered him; in fact he had told the shareholders in the brewery that such was the case. In these circumstances he (Mr. Bottomley) asked the House to say that the conditions affecting his appointment required explanation. The Public Trustee defined in the Act was a position of the most reponsible character. In these circumstances, it seemed to him that every Member of the House would admit that what was required in such an official was a gentleman not only experienced in the administration of trusts but also of a keen business capacity. He did not wish to make any invidious distinctions, but the sort of gentleman who would have been best suited for the position he thought was a gentleman like the late Sir Alfred Billson. The whole legal profession had been slighted, the whole accountants' profession also, and he asked the Attorney-General to say what names were before the Lord Chancellor. He thought the House had a right to exercise scrutiny as to how such a post was filled up. Having regard to the serious character of the post which was to be filled, having regard to the fact that the occupant would exercise an important legal position in the country, he thought there were suspicious circumstances behind the whole thing, especially as beneficiaries under trusts were unable oftentimes to look after their own interests. He asked the Attorney-General not to put him off with common-places of the nature that Members often had given to them at Question time, but to tell him candidly why the office was filled before it was created, and what the qualifications of Mr. Stewart were over the heads of other applicants and what applicants were invited to tender for the post. He described it as something suspiciously like a very scandalous affair."I have not the slightest idea of what the mind of the Lord Chancellor is, but whatever it is I agree with it."
said he understood that the first ground of complaint was that the rules were not accessible as early as the hon. Member wished, but as he had not criticised any rule he did not think he need deal further with that objection. The real gravamen of the complaint was that the office was prematurely filled, and, secondly, that it should not have been filled by a gentleman about whom the hon. Member said there was some suspicion. The Lord Chancellor assured him in the first place that Mr. Stewart was an absolute stranger to himself except on official grounds. When the present Lord Chancellor was Attorney-General, Mr. Stewart was at the same time employed in the Board of Trade, and the Lord Chancellor formed a high opinion of his ability and his industry. The Lord Chancellor had held that opinion from that day to the present time. The hon. Member said that when Mr. Stewart held the position of official liquidator he instituted a prosecution in the course of which the learned Judge who presided at the trial made some observations criticising Mr.Stewart'e partiality in getting up the case for the prosecution, and intimated that his zeal had over-reached his discretion. He (the Attorney-General) believed that statement to be perfectly accurate, but the Lord Chancellor informed him that other persons in the Board of Trade who were the superiors of Mr. Stewart gave their opinion that this comment was not well founded. The President of the Board of Trade for the time being said that there was no justification for the comment, and that Mr. Stewart was entirely exonerated from all blame. A little later Mr. Stewart left the public service entirely of his own accord is order to accept the position of Clerk to the London County Council. After having been some time in that position he was offered the post of chairman to a well-known brewery company and accepted that post. That company might not have been financially successful, but this failure was not in any way to be ascribed to Mr. Stewart. That gentleman had now resigned his post in order to re-enter the public. service. The Lord Chancellor told him (the Attorney-General) the history of his re-entering the public service. The story is very short. The post of Public Trustee demanded special qualifications, and the Lord Chancellor, while he occupied the position of Attorney-General, had been struck by the organising abilities of Mr. Stewart. He invited him to attend a small committee, and afterwards offered him the post of Public Trustee, and Mr. Stewart declined it. Then an interval passed and the Lord Chancellor again asked Mr. Stewart to accept the position. Mr. Stewart accepted the offer. He could therefore say that no appointment was ever more honourably made.
said he wished to protest on a subject on which he felt very strongly, but asit was an early hour in the morning, and the House was very tired, he felt he ought not to detain them long. He himself had travelled far that day to attend the sitting. He felt that it was a vital principle that he wished to point out. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not able to take off the war taxes on tea and sugar, if they could not get payment for Members of Parliament, why should they take out of the public funds and give to Lord Cromer £50,000 beyond the pension due to him after thirty-five years in the public service during which time he had not done a stroke of work for which he was not paid well? Lord Cromer came of a family as wealthy as the Rothschilds. The first Lord Revelstoke was Lord Cromer's brother. There were four peerages in the family, and the holders were revelling in wealth. The founder of the family made £7,000,000 of money. During the pre-reform time, for fifty years they represented nearly every borough in which there was a corrupt reputation. Lord Revelstoke was a rich man, Lord Ashburton was a rich man, so was Lord Northbrook and also Lord Cromer. This Government came in under different circumstances from the late Government. They came in for the benefit of the poor. There was no mandate whatever to give Lord Cromer £50,000. And now he came to some observations which he hoped the Foreign Secretary would not take unkindly in reference to himself. Lord Cromer's administration must be marred and blurred by the terrible occurrences at Denshawi. When the account of the Denshawi executions—judicial murders—came to this country, it moved Parliament very much. On 2nd July last year many Questions were addressed to the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman refused to obtain a full account of the proceedings by telegraph, and he (Mr. MacNeill) said then as he said now, that the full telegraphic reports were withheld deliberately by the right hon. Gentleman for fear of the indignation of the public, and with the hope that the matter would cool. The right hon. Gentleman dismissed all questions in reference to the horrors attending these executions. He was in Ireland at the time, and got a letter asking him to address a Question to the right hon. Gentleman with reference to postcards containing pictures of the proceedings. He addressed a Question to the right hon Gentleman, but the Answer that he received was that the Government were not responsible for the pictorial representations, and that they did not know how they came at all. He had them with him, and he said that atrocities of this kind occurring under British rule should make every hon. Member if he did not protest against it ashamed, and the English people ashamed also. He had taken pictures from the illustrated papers of the day. He had got theGraphic, and theIllustrated London News. There was a question as to whether the crowds were permitted to see these executions. Here was one, "A group of onlookers watching the executions." Another was, "One of the condemned, preceded by the police mounting the scaffolding, assisted by the police and hangman," the letterpress appearing under "Retribution." A still more horrible one was that showing the condemned men being conveyed to the place of hanging, and the bodies of the men after having been hung. These were authorised photographs, the object being to educate the public mind. The way the execution was carried out was a perfect scandal. The gentleman who was the governor, and responsible for the Government at the time, got £50,000. He was in England at the time no doubt, and in conference with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but it struck neither Lord Cromer nor the right hon. Gentleman, that it would be better to telegraph and find out what did occur with reference to this thing, and to be sure of the facts. The right hon. Gentleman was a high Imperialist, and one was almost afraid to address a word to him for fear that they would disturb the peace of Europe or the balance of power. He held himself aloof and came down to the debates and answered questions at a specified time. He did not trouble himself with mundane affairs. Of course the lives of the poor people were not of such great consequence to him as to the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman largely for the lives of the poor people as long as they had him as their servant had not the same feelings as they had. He very well recollected that they ventured to protest against executions in South Africa—the right hon. Gentleman was the chief protagonist of the South African War and he did a great deal towards prolonging that war by defending it from the Liberal Benches. He very well remembered when some executions almost as horrible as these were described in the House, the right hon. Gentleman got up and said he wished the executions to be carried out in a dignified manner. That exclamation produced from those present a perfect howl of rage, and he was not able to go on for some time. One Gentleman was extremely disorderly, and made a remark which was very pungent, and said: "Why do you not paint the gallows red?" But they were not going to have these things done; if punishment was to be carried out, it should be carried out properly, and everyone, be he black, white or brown, under the British flag, should have justice, and there should be no difference shown. Another feature of the case was that Captain Meechan was the Judge and presided over executions, and he was in command of the military in Egypt. The House had agreed to give the sum of £50,000 to a privileged man, a Member of the House of Peers, a Member of a family which had four peerages and immense wealth, and he could not understand its being done in the House of Commons by the Liberal Party, which had a majority of 475, and were sent there, not to do such things, but to defend the poor and protect the helpless, and those in humble life. This was his case, and he must apologise to the House for bringing it up again, but it was so horrible that he had no option. What was the use of passing academic Resolutions about peers, and then conferring large sums on them, and suddenly becoming very anxious to become members of that aristocratic body one's self. The House of Commons was in earnest—two-thirds of the Ministry he believed were in earnest. They had a grand opportunity, and Liberal principles and the principles of love for mankind would not be destroyed and would not be allowed to be spoilt by the work of any of the Liberal Imperialists who were the leaven of the Cabinet in this matter.
said he made no apology in rising to support the hon. Member for Donegal. When a few days ago, the matter was raised, owing to the intervention of the Secretary of State for War several hon. Members were unable to take part in this debate. He had the honour of representing between 70,000 and 80,000 people, the bulk of whom were humble wage-earners on whom rates and taxes pressed very heavily. It was on their behalf that he rose that night to protest against this grant. The form in which this grant came to the House was a gracious message from the throne that the King was desirous to confer some mark of his royal favour upon Lord Cromer for his services during the last twenty-five years. That signal mark of royal favour was to be to the tune of £50,000 at the expense of the taxpayers of the country. To that principle he objected altogether. If that House, containing representatives of the people dealing with the people's money, and responsible to the people for the disbursement of that money, did, out of their benevolence and gratitude for services rendered, give a grant of £50,000 to a public servant, all well and good, but he did not see where the signal mark of royal favour was to come in. If it was to be bestowed let it come out of the royal purse and they would know where they were. This was a Government which professed to hold economy as one of its most sacred ideals; he did not think that could be denied. They had had experience of that, as was witnessed in the action of the present Local Government Board who, through its determination to economise, withheld some £80,000 of public money voted by Parliament towards the relief of the unemployed and distressed. What were the grounds of this grant? He understood that the retiring allowance of Lord Cromer as Consul-General of Egypt was some £999 a year. It was urged by the right hon. Gentleman the other day that the ground of the grant was the fact that the retiring pension was inadequate, and it was thought by the Government that Lord Cromer should have a similar retiring pension to that enjoyed by ambassadors at St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. Why in that case could they not have had a small Act of Parliament brought in to have made his retiring pension equal to that of any other retiring ambassador? But this £50,000 was not voted to that purpose, but to bolster up a title. He had not the slightest doubt that as soon as this money was received by Lord Cromer it would be sunk in some trust deed going down from father to son. Years ago when he went to Egypt, Lord Cromer found the country in a state of anarchy. The Exchequer was bankrupt, and the fellaheen of that country were groaning under taxation and a tyrannical form of government. This country went to the rescue, with her money and her soldiers. Major Baring, as he then was, was given exceptional powers, and he would say that he had used those powers very well indeed. The value of Egyptian bonds had been raised to above par, where they still remained. The native population was enjoying great prosperity, and he would be glad to add, immunity from tyranny. Were not the incidents referred to by his hon. friend opposite a standing evidence that tyranny in Egypt still existed, although the culprits were British officers? The policy of irrigating the land had been a great success and stood in Lord Cromer's favour, but while this, and a steady form of government had been introduced into Egypt by him, there was one thing which struck him, and that was that in his Reports during the last five or six years, he remarked that if the British officials were withdrawn from Egypt to-morrow, although Lord Cromer had spent twenty-five years of his life there, trying to put the country on a sound basis, the old state of anarchy would be resumed at once. If Lord Cromer had been twenty-five years erecting an edifice on such uncertain foundations as that, he was not quite sure that he deserved all the encomiums which had been lavished on him by that House. The only thing that the right hon. Gentleman had to say was that these people were orientals and incapable of self-government. The Irish nation had for some years been insulted in the same way about its incapacity to govern itself, and he had not the slightest doubt that if the Leader of the Opposition had been sitting in the House that night hon. Members would have had philosophical reflections from him as to the incapacity of the people of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony to govern themselves. Another thing was the boasted prosperity of the Soudan. Curiously enough, two or three days before the discussion came on in the House there was an article in the commercial supplement ofThe Times by a correspondent who had been down to Khartoum, from which it appeared that the officials there had done everything they could to discourage the advent of commercial men. It was on these grounds that he resisted the grant and would vote against it if, as he hoped, his hon. friends pressed the matter to a division. He protested against this grant because the Government still kept on the tax of a halfpenny a pound on sugar, and other taxes which pressed so heavily on the poorest in the land, and yet could find the money to give a grant of £50,000 al one fell swoop to a man who was already well off.
said that this subject was discussed in the House quite recently. Respecting the other question which had been raised he assured the House that the Egyptian Government had nothing at all to do with the matter. As to the grant to Lord Cromer he could add nothing to what he had said quite recently. He did not think that on the Third Reading of the Appropriation Bill the House could seriously desire to discuss over again the decision which they came to on this matter. Therefore he would not attempt to do so. He had not heard any argument brought forward by the hon. Gentleman which was not covered by the speeches on a former occasion. He could only say again that Lord Cromer's service had certainly been unique. If they considered the extreme difficulties with which Lord Cromer had to deal they could not, if they desired to choose one man who had served his country and had saved the country millions of money, make a better selection than Lord Cromer. He had said before that if they regarded Lord Cromer's services merely from an economical point of view and attempted to measure them by a money grant the grant would be something very much larger. By services such as Lord Cromer's the country would always reap economy and efficiency, and he thought the grant that was proposed was a very moderate one.
Has no censure been issued for the way in which these executions were carried out, and has any order been sent as to executions in the future?
I have conveyed no order, and with regard to the future the hon. Member is aware that certain things were proposed with regard to a special tribunal. That was proposed by Lord Cromer himself.
said he wished to raise the question of the position of postmen. Some time ago he received a deputation and promised to bring this question before the House. What was the position of the postmen? Some three years ago the Bradford Committee issued its Report. A strong attack was made on the then Government, and it was impressed on them that there was a necessity for improving the position of postmen. There was a very unequal division of remuneration between postmen in the provinces and those in London. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested a Committee to consider the question appointed outside the House and not liable to any inside influences. Then came the general election and from that time to the present nothing had been done except the appointment of a Committee. The result had been seen in a meeting of the postmen on Saturday when the strongest expressions were given to the feeling of that class of Government servants. He thought all Members must agree that postmen were a class who ought to be properly treated and paid. Nothing had been done as regarded the report of the Bradford Committee. The Hobhouse Committee, which had reported, was more against the interests of the postmen than the previous Committee had been. He would like to know what steps would be taken to satisfy that large body of most respectable men, and he would also like the House to consider the difference in pay between the provincial men and the London men. In addition to that, there was the fact that the present pay was inadequate to the services which they gave, as was admitted by this Report, and therefore he would like to know what steps would now be taken to put these postmen on proper basis of pay and remuneration.
pointed out that the hon. Member had given no notice of the fact that he was going to bring this matter before the House. The Report of the Select Committee was now being considered by the Postmaster-General. He would represent everything the hon. Member had said, and he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be able to satisfy him.
said it had been his intention to trouble the House with a few observations on a subject of great importance to his constituents, and he thought that after this long and weary session he had some claim upon the House. He began to attend the sittings in February, and had been constantly there all the time. For the last few weeks he had spent a considerable portion of his time in Committees upstairs. Yesterday at 12 noon he came to the House and served upon a Private Bill Committee. He did all this work in the service of the House, and did not feel at all unhappy; but he was in hope of having the opportunity of bringing before the House a question in which his constituency was very much interterested. The Committees on which he served and the questions they decided were totally foreign to his constituents; they had no interest whatever in the matters that came before these Committees, and he had hoped that in return he would have had an opportunity of bringing before the House on this occasion a grievance deeply affecting his constituents. In the last Parliament they had some opportunities of introducing to the notice of the House of Commons the subject of the arterial drainage of Ireland. This Parliament knew absolutely nothing about it, and it was his intention to bring the matter forward. But he declined to do so at that hour of the morning. He had no desire to address empty benches and especially a House of Commons which were half asleep; and, therefore, he would not trouble his hon. friend on the Government Bench, who had been there the whole evening for the purpose of answering any question that he might put to him with regard to the attitude of the Government on this very serious question. He did not know what it was that excited the laughter of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. He had a much more serious question to bring before the House than that which had been raised by the noble Lord. If the noble Lord was outside the precincts of the House and treated this subject in the hilarious and disgraceful manner that he exhibited now——
I do not think the hon. Member is in order in addressing these remarks to the House about the noble Lord.
I shall pass it over because you desire me to do so, Sir, but I was about to say that if it occurred outside the precincts of this House it would have the treatment that such inane conduct deserves.
rose, but Mr. O'Connor refused to give way.
Does the noble Lord rise to a point of order?
I desire to ask whether the extraordinary statement of the hon. Member, which practically contains a threat of personal violence, is in order?
I do not think it was intended to suggest personal violence.
said he would not treat the observations as those of a noble Lord, but rather as those of an impudent puppy.
Order, order! Does the hon. Member mean to use that phrase with regard to the noble Lord? If so, it is not in order.
said it was his intention to have drawn the attention of the House to a serious matter, but the noble Lord had chosen not to treat it as such, and, of course, if he behaved towards the subject in the same way elsewhere he would treat it in a different manner. However, he was not going to trouble the House any further except to express his unutterable disappointment at the way in which he had been treated by the House with regard to this serious subject.
I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw the phrase he used with regard to the noble Lord.
said as regarded anything he had to say inside the House he did not desire to carry it further, but if the noble Lord chose to treat the subject that he wished to introduce in the light manner he had done, then he would treat him as he deserved.
I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw the phrase. I understood him to use the words "impertinent puppy" with regard to the noble Lord, and it is a phrase I cannot allow to pass.
With great respect, as I understand the expression——
Order order! It is not a matter for the hon. Gentleman to explain. I wish the hon. Member to withdraw the phrase.
said he understood that his hon. friend did not apply the expression to the noble Lord, but said that if it had been anyone outside the House he would have treated the matter differently.
Out of respect entirely for you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the authority of the Chair, I withdraw any expression which I used.
said he wished to bring an important point before the House, and that was the attitude of the Government, and particularly of the War Office, with respect to the rifle shooting team which had just left this country for the Colonies. The attitude of the War Office had created a great deal of ill-feeling and irritation in military circles in the Colonies, and that irritation ought to be at once allayed by His Majesty's Government if it were possible without serious inconvenience. The Colonies recognised the value of rifle-shooting far more than we at home did, and they attached much importance to the inter-Colonial competitions which took place annually in this country at the Bisley meeting. These competitions did a great deal to set up a high standard of marksmanship throughout the British Empire, and so did a great deal in the cause of national defence. In furtherance of that patriotic idea the Colonies had for a number of years sent representative rifle teams to the National Rifle Meeting in this country to compete not only against the other Colonial representative teams, but against teams representing the Mother-country. A great feature of their action was the extreme generosity and public spirit in which the Colonial Governments had treated this movement. They had, on all occasions when representative teams had come to England, not only made a contribution towards the expenses of the team, but had given every facility possible in their power to the non-commissioned officers and men forming part of that team. This year, for instance, the Federal Government of Australia made a considerable grant—he thought £1,000—to the rifle team that visited this country. They allowed the officers who came to go on full pay and the non-commissioned officers and men were allowed separation allowance as well as pay. The Canadian Government did the same thing. This year the visit of the Colonial team had been returned, and the team representing the Mother Country had been selected by the National Rifle Association, and started ten days ago to visit Canada and Australia in order to encourage this most important branch of national defence. As the House was probably well aware, the team went out in charge of His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Small Arms. An application was made by the National Rifle Association to the Treasury, he thought through the War Office, for a contribution to the expenses of this team, which was absolutely refused. And that was not all. There were various matters, small in themselves, but which gave the impression, not only in this country but in the Colonies, that the Government had behaved meanly. There were two officers serving in His Majesty's Forces who had joined this team who had been placed on half-pay. Separation allowances were refused for non-commissioned officers and men. One other point, be thought perhaps the meanest of all, referred to one individual, a warrant officer who was stationed at Malta, and who had returned to England to join the team. The Government had claimed from the National Rifle Association the cost of his passage home i n order to join the team. The saving. effected by the Government in all these details had been very small indeed, but they had created a great deal of discontent. He could speak from personal knowledge and experience of the great bitterness with which this matter was spoken of by a large number of Colonial marksmen who were in England this year. Many of them had spoken to him on the subject, and it was impossible to exaggerate the disappointment which this meanness on the part of the Government had caused. But there was one other matter which threw even greater light on the generosity and public spirit of the Colonial Governments in reference to this matter of rifle shooting, and consequently threw a dark shadow on the action and attitude of His Majesty's Ministry. About a fortnight ago the Federal Government of Australia, finding that all Government assistance was refused by His Majesty's Ministers here, and knowing that a great deal of money was still required to meet the estimated expenditure, actually made a grant themselves to the expenses of the team which was visiting them. They had made this grant towards the cost of entertaining the team which was not their own, while the team was in Australia, in order to reduce the burden which might fall on the individual members of the team, and also on the National Rifle Association of this country. He was sorry that no representative of the War Office was present that night—perhaps he made a mistake in not sending a written notice to the Secretary for War, telling him he was going to bring on the matter—he had given verbal notice—but he hoped even now that the Government might so reconsider the line they had taken that they might alleviate the bitterness that had been created thereby in Colonial military circles. He knew it would be said on behalf of the Treasury that it would be a very bad precedent. If they once started giving grants to rifle shooting teams they might be asked to give equal grants to similar objects, such as football or cricket teams. But that was a totally different thing. Rifle shooting was an integral and important part of national defence, and anything that could be done to encourage it throughout the Empire should be done. He also wished to lay stress on the light that was thrown on our attitude by the action of the Colonials themselves. It was not wise, he thought, for His Majesty's Government at home to allow themselves to appear mean compared with the Governments of the Colonies.
rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r)||Nicholls, George|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Haworth, Arthur A.||Nicholson,Charles N.(D'nc'st'r)|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Hedges, A. Paget||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Baring,Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets,S. Geo||Henry, Charles S.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Bertram, Julius||Hobart, Sir Robert||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)|
|Bottomley, Horatio||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Radford, G. H.|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Holland, Sir William Henry||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Holt, Richard Durning||Richards, T. F. (Wolverh'mp'n|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Horniman, Emslie John||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cleland, J. W.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Clough, William||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel||Robertson, Sir G. Scott(Br'df'rd|
|Clynes, J. R.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W||Kearley, Hudson E.||Runciman, Walter|
|Corbett,C H (Sussex, E.Grinst'd||Kelley, George D.||Russell, T. W.|
|Cowan, W. H.||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland|
|Crooks, William||Lehmann, R. C.||Seely, Colonel|
|Crossley, William J.||Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Silcock, Thomas Ball|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Lewis, John Herbert||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh. )|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Lupton, Arnold||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Elibank, Master of||Lyell, Charles Henry||Thompson, J. W. H.(Somerset, E|
|Everett, R. Lacey||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Ure, Alexander|
|Fenwick, Charles||MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Ferens, T. R.||M`Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||M`Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.|
|Gill, A. H.||Markham, Arthur Basil||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn Herbert John||Marks,G.Croydon (Launceston)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Marnham, F. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr|
|Grant, Corrie||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Whiteley and Mr, J. A|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Micklem, Nathaniel||Pease.|
|Acland-Hood, Rt, Hn. Sir Alex.F||Fell, Arthur||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Forster, Henry William||Valentia, Viscount|
|Balcarres, Lord||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Banner, John S. Harmood-||Hills, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Nield, Herbert||Viscount Tumour and Mr.|
|Cave, George||Pease, Herhert Pike(Darlington||Courthope.|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hn. Victor C. W.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
Question put accordingly, and agreed to.
Bill read the third time, and passed.