Resolution reported, "That a sum, not exceeding £19,351,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil Services and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1912."—[For details of Vote on Account, see OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1911, col. 1271–1275.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
Mr. THOMAS RICHARDSON
I ask the indulgence which is always extended to new Members who rise to address the House. Before proceeding to my observations, I desire on behalf of my colleagues on these benches to say to Members of the Nationalist party that we appreciate very much the courtesy which they have shown to us in regard to questions we intend to raise. On 13th February, I placed on the Notice Paper two questions addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The first question was as to whether it was in harmony with precedent that the mines inspector of a given district in whose area the explosion had occurred was not privileged to submit his report to the Home Office. The Home Secretary replied that there had been one precedent and one only. But he proceeded to make some further observations, and stated that in the volume which contained the Report of His Majesty's Chief Inspector of Mines, there was embodied in addition the full statement of the mines inspector of the district. I most respectfully submit that the statement referred to cannot be accepted as a full account of the facts pertaining to the catastrophe at Whitehaven. We on these benches are anxiously disposed to guard what to us and the men that we represent, especially in the mining industry, appears to us and to them to be of very vital importance—namely, that the mines inspector in any given area should, in the nature of his vocation, and in the area over which he exercises supervision of necessity be in the most favourable position to report on mines accidents and any other similar accident which happens in his immediate district.I want to assure the House that we do not object to the Home Office sending the Chief Inspector to hold the public inquiry. As a matter of fact we believe it to be a very desirable line of policy for them to have pursued. Neither are we endeavouring directly or indirectly to cast any aspersions either upon the Chief Secretary of Mines or upon the report that he has submitted to this House. We do submit to the Home Office and to the Members of this House that the mines inspector who had paid thirty visits down into the mine, apart from his previous knowledge, and from frequent visits to that colliery and district, ought, as a matter of right, and certainly in the interests of miners and the general public, be sent to visit that mine. I would respectfully suggest to the Home Office authorities that if they should withdraw from the mines inspector of any given district the right, as well as the privilege that they have hitherto enjoyed it will weaken that confidence that is so essential between the mining public and the general public as well as with the Home Office, and thereby, in my judgment, not add to the prestige and to the value and usefulness of the Administrative Department of the Home Office. I hope we shall be assured by the representative of the Home Office that there is no intention that the precedent laid down here, not for the first time, but certainly for the second time in the case of the Whitehaven explosion, shall not be laid down as a general principle in the Administrative Department of the Home Office. The other question that I put to the Home Secretary-was as to whether or not inspectors' reports were sub-edited when they went to the Home Office. I find in a memorandum which is attached to one of the reports issued by the Royal Commission, the following paragraph:—
I do not propose to discuss that question now further than to express the sincere hope that the Home Office will be able to give an assurance to this House that the Royal Commission shall have the opportunity of taking evidence on this question. I sincerely trust that the result of that evidence will be to leave no fears or doubts, which I suggest do exist, not only in the minds of many of the leaders of the Trades Union movement in the mining industry, but also in the minds of quite a large number of the general public. There was a further question in which I asked the Home Office if they were in a position to state to the House what standard of qualification would be applied in the appointment of the new mining inspectors who are to be appointed. At that time the Secretary stated that the Department had not yet made up its mind as to the standard of qualification to be imposed. I submit that after the very instructive discussion in this House on last Friday afternoon, which unmistakably made clear the fact, of which we on these benches were very glad, that all sections of this House are agreed as to the urgency of something effective being done in order to minimise the loss of life amongst the miners of this country, that the matter does not brook delay. It will be of interest, not only to the House, but to a large population in the country, to be informed during this Debate if possible, as to what is to be the standard of disqualification to be applied by the Home Office. In reply to a question of mine as to the number of inspectors to be appointed, and their relation to the Chief Inspector, the Home Secretary referred me to the statement that he made in this House on 23rd November. I need not assure the right hon. Gentleman that the miners of this country appreciate very much the fact that it has been promised that there shall be thirty additional mines inspectors appointed; but I take the liberty of saying, with some degree of knowledge, that the needs of the miners, and of the mining industry in that particular connection in this country, demand that there should be substantially more mines inspectors appointed than the number according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. In view of the very intelligent note that was sounded in the discussion on Friday last, I express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will with boldness, and I hope with the consent of the Treasury, be able to announce to the miners of Great Britain that the number of thirty, which it is proposed to appoint will be substantially augmented. 4.0 P.M. I desire to refer to the report dealing with the mine explosion at Whitehaven. Everybody who has read that important document must agree with us that it makes very melancholy reading. Time will not permit me to review that report at any length, but I wish to direct attention to two or three salient points, to draw certain deductions, and to make two or three suggestions which I hope may receive the favourable consideration of the Home Office. It cannot be questioned by anyone whether miner or mine owner, that the mine at Whitehaven where the explosion took place was in every sense one of those mines in which every human precaution ought to have been taken to preserve not only the life and limb, but the health of the miners engaged therein, and yet the Chief Mines Inspector, Mr. Samuel Pope, barrister-at-law, on behalf of the Home Office, the mines inspector of the district, and Professor Galloway are all, with the authority attaching to their respective positions, in absolute agreement that there has been in the management of that mine serious laxity and a serious disregard for the mines regulations and general rules which ought to have been obeyed. Mr. Redmayne and Mr. Pope agree that it was a fiery mine, and even in the evidence submitted by the officials of the colliery it was conceded that it was a very gassy mine; and yet some of the ordinary precautions that an average colliery manager outside the four corners of the law takes on his own initiative because of exceptional conditions, were totally ignored by the managers of that colliery. Referring to the ventilation, Mr. Redmayne says:—"The question of the right of the Secretary of State to expunge portions of reports made by Mines Inspectors, who may have been specially appointed to investigate some serious accident, came before the Commission incidentally, but sufficient evidence was not given to justify them in reporting on the matter. We consider the question of sufficient importance to permit of our suggesting that the matter should be reopened when the Commissioners reassemble, with a view to finding out whether or not there is any ground for making any suggestion on the matter."
and he afterwards states that, as between the main inlet and a certain point there was a leakage of not less than 41 per cent. Practical miners, and even persons with a very limited knowledge of the conditions of mining life, know that a condition of things like that would be impossible if reasonable care were exercised by the mine officials of any given colliery. The report further states that, as from No. 3 district and the furthermost point, which is about four miles underneath the sea, there was even a greater leakage and waste, which, in fact, means that the workmen have been compelled to follow their vocation four miles under the sea under the conditions which are a reflection on modern civilisation. I do not know whether Members generally have noticed the importance of a very significant statement m the report—namely, that there were no ponies or horses working in the mine. I think the correct history of that incident that, in consequence of the physical conditions of the mine, the owners were compelled to withdraw the ponies. Surely such a condition of things gives cause for serious reflection. We have no apology to make for bringing up this matter. If we did not do so we would indeed be failing in our duty to that large army of industrial toilers who are engaged not only in a hazardous occupation, but m the staple industry of Great Britain. It would appear from the evidence submitted at the inquiry that, notwithstanding the first intimation at the shaft's bottom of something having gone wrong in the working of the mine, about fifteen minutes after, when the mine manager descended the mine, he gave instructions to the on-setter to commence again to draw coal. In other words, notwithstanding the magnitude of the explosion, there happened at Whitehaven something which I believe has never been paralleled in the history of mines explosions—namely, that for some considerable time, notwithstanding that those in authority were aware of the fact that something terrible had happened, they continued to draw coal. The feverish anxiety to get coal, to increase output, and incidentally to reduce cost and swell dividends is one of the phases of mining life to-day that is not only endangering the lives of the workmen, but is making the lives of mines managers and officials burdensome in the extreme. That is exemplified by a further observation in the report. It came out in evidence that occasionally—I fear too frequently—notwithstanding that gas is to be found in the working places, even the miners themselves had gone and worked in those particular places. We have no defence to offer for the miner who goes into a place knowing that it is foul. I want to associate myself with the suggestion made by an hon. Friend of mine on Friday last, that there is need for much educational work to be done. I hope that the miners' leaders, and it may be possible for the Home Office to co-operate with them, will do something to educate the miners themselves and to bring to fruition that co-operation between mine managers, officials, and workmen that would bring about a greater sense of security than obtains to-day. I would ask the House to consider one point in connection with the disposition that is sometimes found on the part of a mine-worker to go to a place even though he knows there is gas there. In many raining centres there is a system in operation under which it is perfectly possible for first-class craftsmen, physically strong, and mentally ready to put forth their best efforts to secure a livelihood, to have the misfortune to get into an abnormally hard place, possibly for three, six or nine months, and there they work for starvation wages. I am not putting this forward as any justification for the miner who goes into a foul place, but I want the House to appreciate the fact that the economic pres- sure on many of these able and willing workers is such that we cannot be surprised that, when they get the opportunity of a better place, where they can redeem to some extent the bad time they have been having for six or nine months, they take advantage of it. We on these benches would have no pleasure in criminal proceedings being taken against the managers of the mine at Whitehaven. The House will not be surprised, however, if we note the difference in the standard of judgment applied to workmen, as compared with mineowners or the mine officials. What are the facts? The facts are that within recent months there has been a number of cases before the magistrates of matches having been found in the possession of mine-workers. We are not complaining of that action. We are with the law all the time, with the Home Office, and with Parliament itself, in endeavouring to discipline our members, and encourage them to co-operate with us to prevent such mistakes happening. But you have in the management of this particular colliery, admittedly, on the authority of experts appointed by the Home Office, gross negligence and flagrant violation of mine regulations and general rules. Whilst I say we have no pleasure in desiring, and do not desire, that criminal proceedings should be taken, what we do ask is that some effort should be made, some course of action should be taken, that will register the protest of the Home Office, and of this House, against the laxity that has been displayed by the management of this particular colliery. In conclusion, we demand, with all due respect, but with earnestness and sincerity, in the interest of the million mine-workers (and their dependents) engaged in one of the most hazardous industries in this country, as the very minimum that all that science, human skill, and forethought is capable of doing, not only should, but must, be done in order to secure the life, limb, aye! and the health of the workers; and what is of equal importance, that there should be secured to the wife and family of the miner, when he goes down the mine in the morning, some reasonable assurance that he will be permitted to return to his own fireside. I thank the House for the courtesy with which they have listened to me."I know of no mine in the United Kingdom the workings of which extend so great a distance away from the shaft."
Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I think the House will naturally congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down upon the explicit and plain, yet not the less earnest, statement that he has given to us. I rise to support him in every statement he has made. I also rise to point out one or two things that I think can very properly be said. This is one of the very few occasions in which we can impress upon this House, and thereby upon the Nation, the gravity of the present conditions of coal mining life. First, I would like to say that the vote is totally inadequate that we are called upon to give this afternoon. It may perhaps be out of our power to increase the Vote on Account, but I am looking at the total Vote. Although I would not be in order in referring to it, yet I do believe the Home Office is taking very inadequate steps. We were told last Session that there was to be a great increase in the inspecting staff. Speaking relatively to the existing staff, the increase of thirty would, of course, be a great increase. Speaking relatively to the great needs of the situation the increase of thirty is very small indeed. What is proposed? There is proposed to be an addition of nineteen inspectors. Yet that figure is very deceptive. One out of the nineteen is an existing official, and the idea is to make permanent what at present is a temporary position. Therefore that goes out of calculation. There are, therefore, six additions to the existing inspectorate, and twelve sub-inspectors of the lower grade, that were agreed upon last Session. I suggest that the creation of a staff of twelve to take up the actual day-by-day inspection of the thousands of mines that exist in the country is hideously inadequate to the necessities of the case. I suppose there must be at least 800,000 people working underground. The present inspecting staff, whilst it consists of men of very great ability, earnestness, and capacity, have their time largely taken up with clerical work, attendance upon inquests, railway travelling, and reports to the Home Office. There are between one and two thousand people killed in the mines every year. Last year over sixteen hundred persons were killed. Taking the average of the last ten years, it would not be wrong to say that the average death rate in the mines would be about 1,300 persons, or twenty-five every week throughout the year. Think, first of all, of the tremendous physical effort to inspect the conditions under which these deaths had taken place! Think of the enormous railway travelling involved, and of the tremendous physical strain that the inspector must undergo to attend the inquests. Think of the great clerical work involved in reports to the Home Office, and any hon. Member will at once see that these inspectors have much to do. I for one do not lack anything in the very great appreciation I have of their ability and earnestness; yet we must all see that their work is by no means work of inspection for the prevention of accidents, but is very largely the registration of the conditions under which these deaths have taken place. Therefore what we suggest is this: that the existing conditions for 1908–10 before these terrible accidents, were monstrously inadequate so far as inspection went, and that the mere addition of twelve in this present year to the inspection staff is horribly inadequate for the work of day-to-day inspection, and to give to the working miners that confidence that they do not at present possess. The very least the Home Office ought to do is to give thirty more inspectors this year.There was a deputation from the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation to the Home Office two weeks ago. We were told then that the money required could not be obtained from the Treasury. I can hardly believe it. Yet it was put forward with all seriousness. When one considers—allowing that answer to be a serious one—that the money sufficient for thirty inspectors who are to start at the minimum rate of £150 per annum, and rise at their highest to not more than £200, is but £6,000 a year at a maximum—I can only wonder at the lack of recognition on the part of a great State Department of the needs of the case. I cannot believe that that answer could be seriously meant. For the destruction of life the Government can provide increased estimates of many millions. Yet they cannot provide for the better safeguarding of life a paltry £6,000 a year. That answer was seriously put forward to the deputation representing the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation where two of the most horrible accidents of modern times have taken place within the last few years. There was an answer given in July of last year that these appointments must be gradually made, and it is said that the appointment of twelve sub-inspectors would be in complete accordance with the answer given in July, 1910. I submit—and I think I carry the feeling of every Member of this House with me—that the conditions have changed terribly since July, 1910, and that one of the most terrible accidents of modern times has taken place since that answer was given. When that culminating disaster came on the top of three previous disasters, the Maypole, West Stanley, and Whitehaven, it proved in a far more vigorous manner perhaps than we can the needs of the situation, and a situation the Government had shown itself not quite capable of meeting. I suggest, therefore, that we ought to have that extra inspection staff appointed at once, and the whole of the promise carried out; and that we should not go on in the pettifogging and cheese-paring manner which has been suggested by the authorities at the Home Office. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven spoke of some interference, or of some sub-editing, of the mines inspector's reports. I am not quite sure whether the House realises the gravity of that. I take it that essentially the mines inspectors are the servants of the nation, and are not the particular servants of the Home Office, and that when one is appointed his reports are made to this House. So long as they give the complete facts of any situation they ought not to yield to any sub-editing. There is another thing on this point. So far as I understand it, the mines inspector for the Whitehaven district was not allowed to report at all upon this disaster: was really neither allowed to conduct the inquiry or even to make a report. That is a most serious matter. It may, of course, very well be that the officials at the Home Office are the very best people to conduct inquiries like this. I as a layman should hardly have thought so. I am not invested with any official authority and do not know the tremendous knowledge possessed by the Home Office, but I would have thought that the mines inspector of the district who has given up a long life to obtaining accurate day-by-day knowledge of the conditions existing there would have been the very best man to have conducted such an inquiry. His motives could not have been impugned. He would have no other motive than the safety of the life, limb and property entrusted to his care. That he should not be allowed to report at all is a very serious matter. The mines inspector is one who, above all other men, must possess expert and accurate knowledge, and why he should be the one man to be precluded in this matter passes my comprehension. Then I would like to direct the attention of the House to the accusations of niggardliness and cheeseparing that we are levelling against the Government in regard to the appointment of the whole staff of inspectors promised. It is by no means a new accusation. The conditions of mining life in the last twenty years have changed enormously. The general public hardly realise the change that has taken place. Mines are of greater depth; the introduction of coal-cutting machinery, the presence of coal-dust, the introduction of electricity have all brought into the mines dangers which did not exist twenty years ago. The colliery owners of the country have for some considerable time past been conducting experiments with a view to obtaining increased knowledge as to the effect of coal-dust in intensifying and possibly originating explosions, and causing terrible loss of life. Towards the expenses of these experiments the colliery owners have found the whole of the money themselves. So far as my knowledge goes, and I believe I speak accurately, there has been application made to the Government to supplement the money already found by the colliery owners themselves towards this good work, without avail. I hardly ever speak in favour of the colliery owner, yet if ever they deserved a word of credit they deserve it in the last half-a-dozen years. Many of the best colliery owners, guided by their best advisers, and, indeed, by their own better instinct, have spent thousands of pounds in obtaining the best opinion possible, trying to add to their knowledge of the coal-dust danger, and how it affects these terrible explosions. Appeals have been made to the Government to help them by a contribution of a few thousand pounds, but these appeals have fallen upon unheeding ears. One explosion after another has taken place. In every one of these explosions, in the cases of Maypole, West Stanley, and Whitehaven, the experts have agreed that the results have been intensified out of all proportion by the existence of coal-dust. The colliery owners have spent thousands upon these experiments yet not a penny has ever been given by the Government. In the last few years the colliery owners have erected stations for the training of people engaged in rescue work. They have done their best to aid to the stock of knowledge we possess, but not a single penny has yet been contributed by the Government, and, so far as I can see from the amount proposed to be spent by the Home Office, not a single penny is to be given for this purpose. That, I suggest, shows a total lack of appreciation of the necessities of the case, and is wholly unworthy of a great State Department. We suggest that in the appointment of the new inspectoral staff, and especially in regard to the sub-inspectors of mines, the Home Office might very well step out of the beaten track. A great statesman like the right hon. Gentleman who presides over that Department should, if needs be, make new precedents. He need not rigidly follow old precedents. Surely the Home Office is possessed of creative genius, and it should be the rule of great statesmen like the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Home Office Department to create new precedents where necessary. I make that suggestion in all seriousness, and I say that in connection with the appointment of those men who are to undertake the responsibilities of day-to-day inspection of mines something should be done by the Home Office to help candidates in the expenses incurred in the sittings for examination. The appointment of these inspectors is quite a new condition of things in the United Kingdom, and it is one for which we are very grateful. Many men who are fully qualified are very poor, and I would suggest to the Home Office that they might very well contribute some little towards enabling men who possess practical knowledge and experience and educational ability towards sitting for and undergoing the test of examination. These men should not only be helped, but they should not be condemned for evermore to remain in the grade of sub-inspectors. If they possess the ability and experience and the desire to advance themselves they should not be condemned to remain in the lower grade, but should have equal opportunities with the best to rise to the highest position in the Home Office Department. I would press upon the Home Office to rise to the overwhelming needs of the occasion and not to consider themselves bound by the remarks made in July of last year, and if there are thirty inspectors to be appointed they should be appointed at once. There will be plenty of work for them to do. Inspection in the past has been largely a sham, not because the inspectors were not earnest men and devoted to their work, but because of the great physical and clerical strain put upon them it was impossible for them to carry out the work of inspection properly. We hope all that will soon become a thing of the past, and I feel quite convinced if the Home Office will rise to the needs of the occasion and provide a full staff at once they will lift a great burden and remove fear and anxiety from the mind of the nation.
Mr. ALBERT STANLEY
As the representative in this House of some thousands of miners, I desire to raise my voice in support of the very eloquent appeal made by my hon. Friend that the Home Office and the Secretary of State will at once proceed to the appointment of the additional inspectors already promised. I venture to say that, not only this House, but the country generally was very much impressed with the very startling figures given in the eloquent and masterly statement which the Home Secretary made last Friday, showing that in a single year 1,600 miners had lost their lives in the mines. I submit that that, terrible as it is, is not the worst side of the case. I hope I do not startle the House by saying that, but I think more pathetic than the men who lose their lives are the vast number of men and boys who we see year by year crippled. More unfortunate than the man who loses his life is the man who gets his back broken or who loses his sight, and who goes to make the melancholy procession of maimed individuals to be seen every day in our mining towns and villages. It would have been almost better to have been killed outright than crippled as they are. Having lost a father and a brother, the one by fire-damp and the other bruised out of all recognition by a fall of roof, I hope the House will forgive me if I approach this matter with very strong feeling indeed.I think the case generally has been very well put by the Home Secretary, and I appeal to him that when it comes to the appointment of sub-inspectors not to confine himself too closely to the age limit. There are many men of wide and practical experience who may not be eligible under the present age limit. I can associate myself, without hesitating, most absolutely with the tribute paid from all parts of the House to the high-minded men who occupy the offices of chief inspectors and assistant inspectors. Whatever they lack is due to the fact that more work is required of them than they are able to perform. I appeal to the Home Secretary, when he comes to make these appointments, not to limit himself to men of forty-four or forty-five years of age. There are many practical men over that age who could be of great service to him and who would make able inspectors in our mines. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the insistence he has laid upon the need for the inspection as absolutely necessary. There are men of wide experience over forty-five or forty-six years of age who would be invaluable as mining inspectors in detecting fire-damp, the presence of coal-dust and coal-gas, and in detecting all those dangers that only the trained and practical eye and great experience can thoroughly appreciate. By not fixing the age limit too low, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to avail himself of the services of men of the very widest and best experience.
I rise to say a word in support of the appeal made to the right hon. Gentleman upon the matter of inspectors. I shall not compete with hon. Gentlemen in their eulogies of the Home Office, although I readily agree with them that the Home Office has shown, particularly of late, under the guidance of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, practical sympathy with regard to this matter. I should like to suggest one or two reasons why the whole number of thirty inspectors might be appointed as quickly as possible, instead of postponing the appointment of some and dividing the appointments into two parts. A great deal of trouble has been taken with regard to fixing certain regulations, details of examinations, details of standard of application, etc., and if such is the case there surely cannot be a better reason for appointing the whole thirty now when the whole machinery is in operation, and when the Home Office has a large amount of material in fixing upon men suitable for the standard. I think, therefore, there are practical reasons why the Home Office should proceed at once in the selection of the whole of the number of men, rather than proceed piecemeal. If I remember correctly, the Home Secretary, in answering a question which I put to him, gave as a reason that it was only possible to appoint a certain number now because it had not been found possible, after full inquiry to appoint the whole number. The men are now preparing for examination, and the examinations are in course of operation, and having this number ready to apply, it would be as easy to choose the whole number as to take a smaller number. There can be no question that there never was a time more urgent than the present for appointing the whole number of these men. I support the appeal that has been made urging the Home Office to come out boldly and appoint the whole number.
It will perhaps be appropriate for one connected with mines, from the employers' standpoint, to say a word or two in this Debate. I am afraid I have not the same amount of faith in the Home Office or the Home Office officials as some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway. I may say, however, that I think the experiment under discussion seems to be about the most useful the Home Office have undertaken. I claim to be speaking for mine owners generally as well as myself when I say that we shall welcome the appointment of the whole thirty of these men if the right hon. Gentleman can see his way to appoint them. I appeal for their appointment from a different standpoint to that of the miners' representatives. I am speaking in the interests of those who organise labour and conduct these industries when I say that it is necessary to make the working-men who go down into the mines more satisfied with their conditions. There is great justification for their feelings of uneasiness, and I do not care whether £6,000 or £60,000 is spent if it will enable the miners to go to their duty with a little more confidence. If the men are more satisfied and confident, my own belief is that there will be fewer accidents. I hope the men appointed to these positions will have a good sense of smell and hearing as well as sight. I see some attention has already been paid to these men passing an examination for sight. I think it is necessary there should be tests for other faculties as well as sight. It is necessary that the men appointed should be men of sturdy independence, because, if they are too weak in character, however much experience they may have had, they will turn out a delusion and a disappointment.It may be uncomfortable for some of us who are at the head of mines to look forward to, but I do say to the Home Office quite frankly, that in the choice of these men they want independent spokesmen who can assert their own individual opinion as against the average employer and manager. A working man may be a good inspector, but if he is deficient in the quality of obstinacy or pertinacity he may be a disappointment to the men. Whether there are thirty of these sturdy individuals in sight I do not know, but I should think it cannot be a matter of great difficulty to find thirty men of the type I have indicated in this country. I join my appeal to that which has been made by the working men's representatives. I do not think any single hon. Member in this House has lost more personal friends in mine explosions than I have. The manager who lost his life in the explosion which has been referred to was a schoolmate of mine, and I have had to go to the graveside of scores of people who have died in mines. Unless the men working in the mines are thoroughly sure that the utmost has been done for their safety, it reacts on the employers in making bargains with the trade unions. I admire the zeal of hon. Members below the Gangawy, and of the miners' unions in trying to get the best possible wages for the men, and I would not like to think I was connected with an industry which was not prepared to make a fair contract. I appeal to the Home Office not to put employers in the position, when bargaining about wages and allowances to be made for dirt and so on, of having matters complicated by the fear on the workmen's part that they are not as safe whilst working in the mine as they possibly can be. We very often find grave difficulties in trying to arrive at a fair basis of wages and allowances for dirt, and it handicaps us more if our workmen feel that sufficient precautions are not being taken to secure their safety. I appeal to the Home Secretary to appoint these men so that these questions can be removed from controversy altogether, and when we meet to make a fair bargain between masters and men we can assure the men that they need be under no fear of danger. Although I approach this question from a different stand point, it does seem vital, in my opinion, that the men should be satisfied in regard to this fear as to their safety by the appointment of the entire number of these men.
Sir IVOR HERBERT
I wish to say a word on behalf of the miners of South Wales in support of the appeal which has been put forward so definitely and with such strength by my hon. Friends behind me. I think my hon. Friends will be ready to bear out from practical experience what I assert regarding coal-mining in South Wales when I say that the condition of coal-mining in that country differs very largely from the same industry in the north. All the hon. Members who have spoken up to now belong to the north-country. In South Wales we have long felt that the duties of inspection of mines have been very insufficiently carried out, not because there was any desire to shirk their duty by those in charge of this work, or that they were inefficient or anything of that kind, but simply because the amount of inspection required to ensure safety under modern conditions of mining far exceeds the work which those men can possibly do at the present time. In South Wales we have inspectors sent down who come from the north, and when they get to Wales they find themselves among conditions which are strange to them, and they have to deal with a language with which they are unacquainted. After they have been for a certain time in South Wales and have got accustomed to their surroundings they are often summoned away to some other part of the country, and we are left to wait until a fresh appointment is made, and then possibly we get someone who again is not acquainted with the conditions of South Wales. I add my voice to those who have already preceded me in the appeal they have made, and I cannot add anything in eloquence to that which has come from them and from their great practical experience. In support of what they have said, I urge the Home Secretary to consider seriously—and to do more than consider—the question of adding largely to the inspecting staff. There is another point with regard to the inspection of mines to which I desire to draw attention, and it is that it does seem to us in Wales who look on that the duty of inspection has not been carried on in a properly organised manner. This is due to the fact that the head inspectors are constantly being called away to act as the heads of inquiries upon unfortunate occurrences that have arisen. They have no time to co-ordinate and organise a systematic inspection which alone can be efficient. In every walk of life where there is inspection to be done it can only be accomplished by carefully dividing the work and coordinating the duties of the inspectors. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not pall before the alarming figure of £6,000, but take his courage in both hands, as he did upon the Naval Estimate, and grant us the increased amount we require.
The UNDER-SECRETARY for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Masterman)
The Debate on the various new measures which the Home Office is adopting to deal with disasters in coal mines has covered rather a wide field, and I wish now to answer in detail one or two criticisms which have been advanced, and I hope, under the circumstances, I shall not be considered irrelevant in so doing. May I congratulate the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. T. Richardson) upon what I understand is a maiden speech. It is a speech of great ability and moderation. May I also congratulate the House on the businesslike and moderate way in which the various demands which have been made have been placed before us. Certainly the Home Office would be the last to make any criticism of any of the statements made in connection with the two appalling disasters which have been recalled to the House, and we should be the last to resent any sort of suggestion which can be made by which the Home Secretary might prevent or mitigate such disasters. The hon. Member for Whitehaven raised a small point which I think has been somewhat exaggerated. I do not think he quite meant it as a suggestion, but it might go forward as such, when he said that at the Central Department alterations are made in the report of district mine inspectors, and they are done to conceal something from the public which it is inconvenient for us to publish.
Mr. T. RICHARDSON
May I respectfully suggest that the Under-Secretary is not entitled to draw that inference from anything I have said.
I am very glad to hear it. I thought that was the suggestion, and I think it is a suggestion which needs contradiction, even if the hon. Gentleman has not made it. The slightest suspicion that the Department concerned with the health and safety of the miners was reserving any information which bore on that health and safety would be a very dangerous suspicion if it got abroad in the country. The reason the District Inspector did not conduct the inquiry at Whitehaven is perfectly clear. We sent down the best man we had, the Chief Inspector. The District Inspector gave full evidence before him, and that evidence is published and accessible to every Member. I think everyone will agree—a very kindly tribute was paid to it—that the report of Mr. Redmayne on the Whitehaven disaster is not only an exhaustive but a very admirable public document. A question was asked my right hon. Friend concerning the alteration of a report sent to the Home Office. There never has been, as he stated in the House on 27th February, any alteration, except that general method of reducing reports which are too large by cutting out what is irrelevant; and he authorises me to say, with perfect candour to the House or to any Member of it, that, if it is desired, the expurgated portions of any such reports may be seen by Members of this House. Such expurgated portions are always at their disposal. All the Home Office does is to cut down reports to reasonable dimensions in order to make readable documents of the various publications we have to make from time to time.
Does that mean that we can see any of the reports from which parts have been taken referring to recent explosions or to explosions since the Government has been in office?
My right hon. Friend authorises me to state that is so—certainly any of the District Inspectors' Reports which have been published in the Anual Report of the year. The most important point raised in the Debate, I think, was that concerning the new class of sub-inspectors who have been sometimes called in this House the working class inspectors. Questions have been asked as to the qualifications and means of appointment of the new sub-inspectors, and a very strong appeal has been made that the full scheme of thirty, which my right hon. Friend suggested, should be pressed on as speedily as possible, and that he should not be content with the announcement he made last November of the immediate appointment of twelve of these sub-inspectors. I would like to remind the House that, however many inspectors of this class or of any class we appoint, it is impossible to trust to an unlimited degree to inspection as a means of preventing disaster. If hon. Gentlemen will work out the proportion of inspectors, even after we have very largely increased our present inspectorate, to the number of mines and see the amount of work the inspectors will necessarily have to do in systematic inspection, they will realise that we must largely trust to other methods for the purpose of insuring the safety of miners than systematic inspection. That does not mean that we in the least depreciate the value of systematic inspection, nor can that charge be brought against us, for my right hon. Friend last June promised to double the whole inspectorate of the Home Office and to treble the number of inspections that will be made.There has been no kind of concealment about the matter. The statements have always been straightforward. We announced in June thirty sub-inspectors to be appointed in the working-class inspection class, and my right hon. Friend announced that twelve of those would be appointed in November. I am not sure whether, if nothing had happened between November and this time, he would have been prepared to make any other announcement upon the subject, but, as we have been very distinctly reminded, something very serious has happened since last year. The most disastrous of all modern colliery explosions has taken place, and the terrible nature of that explosion has called forth an almost unprecedented amount of public liberality, and it has also undoubtedly, not only among the coal-mining industry but in all classes of the country, created a demand for very considerable advances in the protection of the coal miner and safety in the mines. That demand was strikingly exhibited last Friday by the most pleasant and unanimous manner in which this House responded to the appeal of my right hon. Friend and passed the Second Reading of the new Coal Mines Regulations Bill without a Division, and in a very short space of time. My right hon. Friend authorises me therefore to announce that, in view of these new circumstances, he is prepared to push on with the appointment of the full number of thirty. They cannot all be created at once. We have to make Regulations as to the qualifications required. They are now far advanced, and I hope they will soon be submitted to the House and to the country. We have also to take steps to see that this new class finds its position in connection with the old class in the various districts.
Why would not the Regulations which apply to the twelve also apply to the thirty?
They will certainly apply to the thirty, but the Regulations are not yet completed for the twelve.
Mr. KEIR HARDIE
Will the Estimates this year provide for the whole thirty?
We will certainly promise that during the current year the whole thirty shall be appointed. With regard to the point raised by the Deputation which the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. Stephen Walsh) brought from Lancashire, there is a good deal to be said for appointing these sub-inspectors in more than one batch in order that a certain number of those who may not possess the qualifications at the present time, but who may subsequently qualify should not be excluded. That was very strongly pressed on us in the name of the Lancashire miners, and it led my right hon. Friend to believe it would be much better that the sub-inspectors should be appointed at two intervals, so that while the first batch is getting into its place, others who wish to offer themselves may be preparing.
Can the hon. Gentleman say definitely when the first batch of twelve will be appointed?
No, I cannot say definitely, but I think in a very short time the Regulations will be out. We shall then have to give some little time to receive applications, get testimonials, make arrangements for examinations, and so on, but I have no doubt that in the later spring or summer we may be able to appoint the first batch. These men are mainly poor men, and I feel there is some point in the statement of the hon. Member for Ince, who appealed to us on the question of the expense of the examinations, and I am sure my right hon. Friend will consider that.
Will the hon. Gentleman say how many inspectors will be appointed for Scotland?
I cannot quite tell at the present time. We have six districts under our new arrangements, and, as far as I know, practically the same number will be drafted into each district, but my hon. Friend must not take that as a definite promise. Every district will certainly have some of these inspectors. The hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. T. Richardson) brought before us some of the realities of the Whitehaven explosion, and some of the rather mournful facts which came out as a result of the inquiry. It is our great desire that opportunities for those kind of facts to come out after an explosion shall not occur again. We hope, owing to regulations and to provisions, most of which will be found embodied in the New Coal Mines Regulations Bill, that the possibility of such things occurring as did occur at Whitehaven may be eliminated. I can assure hon. Members that the Whitehaven disaster has been to a large extent one of the parents of this Bill. Three or four at least, and perhaps more, of the clauses of that Bill have been largely put in on account of the experience gained from that and other similar explosions. It would be out of order to refer at length to that Bill, but it deals with weaknesses and difficulties found at Whitehaven, such as leakage in the air and the amount of gas in the return airway, the lack of apparatus for extinguishing fire at the friction gear, the necessity and obligation of full and systematic report by all responsible officials underground to the manager on the day on which they have made their investigation, and the publication of that report at the pit-head the day after the investigation, the classification of mines, with special regulations for those which are inflammatory, special travelling ways in addition to the haulage way where it seems necessary, and provisions dealing with rescue apparatus, and the increased time-limit for prosecution if prosecution is desired. Prosecution would have been impossible in the case of the Whitehaven disaster owing to the present time-limit of three months. All those provisions are in the Coal Mines Regulations Bill, and they all bear on the possibility of a repetition of such explosion. If necessary, those provisions will be strengthened by amendment. Several hon. Members also asked about the coal-dust experiments. Those experiments were conducted, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ince has declared, through the liberality of the coal-owners. I am glad to pay a tribute to them in that respect. I believe those experiments are proving exceedingly valuable. They deal with what mining experts now regard as the most vital question, the question of coal-dust in the mines, and without a shadow of doubt they must somehow be continued. I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite right in declaring that the whole of the expenses of those experiments ought to be borne by the Government.
Mr. STEPHEN WALSH
I never suggested it.
The experiments make for what we hope will be new knowledge in the saving of life and property in the coal-mining industry, and I think it is perfectly just we should ask this rich industry to contribute a certain amount to these experiments. The Home Secretary has told the House during the last fortnight that he is making every effort to see if money may be obtained from some source or other, and I hope in a few days he will be able to announce that arrangements have been made for a continuance of these most valuable experiments. The only other point with which I have to deal was that raised by the hon. Member for Whitehaven in the last words of his speech—the question of co-operation between the Home Office and the mining industry. That co-operation has been a tradition of the Home Office long before its present occupants came into power. As the leaders of the Miners Federation know, the Home Office, from the beginning, has always welcomed any information that they can put at their disposal. We desire especially, in connection with the new Coal Mines Bill, very full, frank, and close intercourse with the leaders of that Federation, and we hope also to bring in connection with them the representatives of the colliery owners themselves. That is a kind of co-operation which is most valuable and which will ensure the Bill passing in the best possible form. I think I have shown, and I think the tributes paid to my right hon. Friend by hon. Members below the Gangway also show, that the Home Office is really awake to a sense of its responsibility in connection with this enormous death rate and these appalling explosions. It is making a very large advance on the two main lines possible, legislation and administration. The hon. Member for Whitehaven asks that all that science and human foresight can give shall he given in order to secure the health and life of the miner, and that we gladly take as a definition of what is our ideal at the Home Office.
Can the hon. Gentleman inform the House what will be the total charge for these thirty inspectors when the staff is completed, and, including, of course, the establishment charges?
I am afraid I cannot make a rapid calculation, but each inspector is to receive £150 a year as a start, rising by increments of £5, to £200, and there will be additional charges for railway expenses, etc.
The hon. Genleman must remember that there will be establishment charges in connection with these inspectorships. Cannot he give the House some idea of their amount?
If the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to put down a question during the next day or two, full information can be given him on the subject.
Are the charges included in the Estimates for this year?
Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I am sure every one must have derived considerable satisfaction from that part of the Under-Secretary's speech in which he informed us that the whole of the thirty additional inspectors are to be appointed this year. But it is a rather sad commentary on the way in which matters of this kind are regarded by the Treasury that, as the Under-Secretary has quite frankly admitted, it has taken a sacrifice of 340 lives in connection with the Hulton disaster to force the hands of the Treasury to spend what one of my hon. Friends has described as a beggarly £6,000 a year. There is one point in the Under-Secretary's statement which I would like to see augmented, and that is the part in which he refers to the steps that are being taken to prevent a recurrence of similar disasters to the one at Whitehaven. The hon. Gentleman specified various Amendments to be embodied in the new Act or to be issued in the form of instructions to the mines inspectors. All of these are in the right direction, but may I call his attention and that of his chief to a very important paragraph in Professor Galloway's Report on the Whitehaven disaster. It is to be found on page 41 of that Report. Professor Galloway was giving the causes which led to the disaster, and he pointed out that the seam of coal there being worked produced a certain quantity of firedamp, and that this fire-damp finds its way into the goaves, where it accumulates because there is no ventilation to carry it off. The passage to which I want to direct the attention of the Home Office is this:—
This is the important part:—"From this position it can only escape by diffusing into the less contaminated mixture of gas and air lying below it, which moves in eddies in consequence of its contact with the ventilating current. The volume of firedamp thus impounded necessarily increases pari passu with the magnitude of the goaf. This continuous increment in volume could have been entirely prevented in the present case if the two short passages which formerly existed between the workings of No. 3 district and the old workings to the rise of them had not been closed with air-tight stoppings; the one near the highest point of the north goaf was closed about a year ago, the other, 60 or 70 yards south of the south goaf, about six weeks before the explosion."
I want to ask the Home Office whether, in the new regulations which have been framed, or which are contemplated by the new Act, it is proposed to make provision for any ventilation of the goaf and for draining it so as to prevent it becoming, as it so often is, a huge reservoir in which fire-damp accumulates and thus adds to the risk of danger for the colliers in the mines. I should like to express satisfaction that at length the awful increase in the death rate in our mines during the past few years is bestirring the various departments of the Government into something like activity. In the year 1905 the number of deaths from accidents in our mines was 1,205. In 1910 it had gone up to 1,812. Such an increase as that shows that something serious is amiss in the working of our mines. The Under Home Secretary very rightly said we should not leave everything to inspection. We are all agreed upon that, but there is one part of inspection to which a great deal must always be left, and that is the daily inspection of the mine by the fireman or his deputy. If the Home Office would, as some of us put it, take its courage in both hands, and, instead of appointing thirty working men as an addition to the existing staff, make the fireman or his deputy State officials, they would practically put an end to big accidents in our mining industry. I am asked who would do the work the fireman is now doing. My reply is that he would continue to do it. He is there to look after the safety of the mines. But the position is this: he is an official who is responsible for the safety of the mine, but at the same time he is also responsible for making the mine pay, and, being in the employ of the colliery owner, he is much more likely to carry out his wishes with, of course, the very best intentions, than he is to carry out the wishes of the mine inspector, whom he only sees once in six, nine, or twelve months, if he ever sees him at all. Sooner or later it will have to come to that, because in the tremendous competition of modern industry, in the growing use of mechanical appliances underground, in the largeness of the capital sunk in our mines, the desire to make them pay and the difficulty of making them pay, is bound to increase, and all that will tend against the safety of the working collier. When the time comes, and it will probably come before we are much older, when the State has its paid official in every mine, an official who is not responsible to the colliery owner, who cannot be dismissed by him and who is not paid by him, then we shall have some assurance that the laws passed by Parliament for the safety of the collier will be fully put into operation."I am satisfied that if these two passages had been left open the explosion would not have occurred, because the firedamp would have drained away in them as fast as it was produced, and no accumulation could have taken place in either the one goaf or the other."
I desire to switch off the Debate to a totally different subject. I wish to raise a question not connected with Home Office administration, but associated with foreign policy. I have risen to call attention to the situation in Persia. Before I do that I would like to refer to an answer which the Foreign Secretary gave the other day to an alleged reproach with regard to the conduct of foreign affairs in this House. The right hon. Baronet seems to be under the impression that he is a most frank and open Minister. I have sat in this House for more than twenty years, and I have never known in my time a Minister who has been more reticent and secretive, or who has been less disposed to take Parliament into his confidence. Affairs in Persia furnish an example of what I say. About three years ago the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for an Agreement between this country and Russia respecting Persia. That Agreement was signed exactly three days after Parliament had risen, and thus no opportunity was given to this House to discuss that very important Treaty while it was fresh in the public mind. By that Treaty Great Britain and Russia agreed between themselves to respect the independence and integrity of Persia. Recent events have lent a somewhat sinister significance to that phrase. Korea and Morocco have been examples of the fact, and Persia seems likely to be an example, too, that a weak country is never in such great danger as when two powerful foreign countries have agreed between themselves to respect its integrity and independence. The interests of Great Britain are deeply concerned in the maintenance of the integrity and independence of Persia. Events are so shaping themselves in the Middle East that in the future, and not distant future, a Persia, strong, independent, and friendly to Great Britain, would be an invaluable auxiliary. And the Persian people were particularly well disposed to us. They regarded us with esteem, and I might almost say with affection, until the right hon. Gentleman issued that unfortunate ultimatum. The policy of this country required that we should foster to the utmost of our power the goodwill of the Persian people towards us, but the action of the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion went a great way to destroy the good feeling which had previously existed; and I want to point out that the close cooperation between Russia and Great Britain in respect to Persia has had consequences far outside Persia. These entanglements in Persia have had a reaction upon our policy in Europe.For instance, in the affair of the Balkan provinces some two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman identified British policy almost absolutely with the Russian point of view, and went very much further than the separate consideration of purely British interests would have led him. He brought this country into a position of antagonism towards Austria and Austria's great ally—a position from which the right hon. Gentleman had to retire, but a position from which he could not retire, and from which he did not retire without moral loss to this country. I come to the present situation of Persia. Recently I have noticed that questions have been put from the other side of the House to the right hon. Gentleman evidently with the intention of egging him on to take action which would be considered unfriendly by the Persian people. I repeat then, what is the present position in Persia? The difficulty is one which is not unknown in countries much nearer home—the difficulty is the want of money in order properly to police the trade routes in the South of Persia. As I understand, Persia has proposed to this country to put a surtax of 10 per cent. upon the imports into Southern Persia in order to supply the necessary funds. How has that proposal been met by our Foreign Office? As I understand, the Foreign Office has not refused to entertain the proposal, but it has imposed a condition upon which alone the proposal will be sanctioned. The Foreign Office says, in effect, "Yes, we will allow the sur-tax, but we will allow it only upon the condition that you, in your turn, allow British officers to be introduced in order to control the gendarmerie." I can imagine nothing which is more calculated to confirm those suspicions of us which the Persian people have already imbibed, to alienate their sympathy from us, and to engender a bitter and lasting resentment against us. I would say further, with what face can Great Britain press Russia to withdraw her troops from certain parts of the northern portion of Persia, if we on our part are pressing the Persian Government to admit British officers into the country? The recent meeting at Potsdam seems, if I may say so, to have brought matters to a head. I do not say that Great Britain has any reason to complain of Russia for the negotiations at Potsdam, but however that may be, the broad fact remains that while for several years Russia had co-operated with Great Britain and with France in regard to the Baghdad Railway, Russia has now entered into separate negotiations with Germany, playing for her own hand. Russia and Great Britain had made a kind of partition between them of Persia, and Russia has now extracted from Germany a recognition of her own particular share in that deal. As regards the Baghdad Railway, Russia has consented to support it, but has put her veto upon those branches of the line which she dislikes, while she has obtained the branch line which she desires. There may be no reason to complain of Russia, the Foreign Office holds, I believe, that we have no right to complain of Russia, but at all events this is a convenient opportunity for edging off from that close co-operation with Russia which has been in my judgment mischievous not only in its effects in Persia but also in its effects upon European policy. I desire to add one word more. I am not insensible and not indifferent to the great and glowing ideals of international treaties of arbitration and of the advantages of universal peace, but if those ideals have the effect of withdrawing the attention of the public, and particularly the attention of the critics of the right hon. Gentleman, from insistence upon a wise and equitable foreign policy in detail, especially in our relations with the weaker countries of the world, then it seems to me that those ideals would be positively mischievous. The latter policy which I have indicated does not, of course, strike the popular imagination so strongly as the other, but I believe that it is better calculated to be fruitful in practice. The Leader of the Opposition has again and again complimented the right hon. Gentleman upon the fact that his foreign policy is in continuity of the foreign policy of Lord Lansdowne. I think that that is rather an unfortunate testimonial. It is worse when the right hon. Gentleman, I think, is proud of it, and I think, perhaps, it is worse still that he deserves it. For some time after the right hon. Gentleman came into Office, to continue in the policy of his predecessor was not unnatural. It was, perhaps, defensible. But now the Liberal party has been in power for five years. We were told the other day by the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury that the era of election rapidly following election had ceased, and that we had come to stay. However that may be I do not know. I have been disappointed by so many statements made by Ministers that one is a little doubtful about its truth. But whether the prophecy should prove true or not, at all events this fact is indisputable, that the Liberal party has been returned to power at three successive elections—a fact which, I believe, is without precedent during, at all events, the last fifty, sixty, and seventy years. That is a great fact. The Government being established in power have already been in power for five years, and I think it is ample time that the right hon. Gentleman should cease to follow in the steps of Lord Lansdowne, and that he should adopt a policy more consonant with Liberal traditions, and more in accordance with the views which are entertained by the greater part of the Members who sit in this part of the House of Commons.
The UNDER-SECRETARY for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. McKinnon Wood)
With a great portion of the speech of my hon. Friend I am, of course, entirely in agreement. The British Government desires to see maintained the integrity and independence of Persia, and to see a strong Government maintaining order in that kingdom, and acting as a friend in that part of the world, but I cannot altogether agree with some of his other criticisms. For example, he seemed to be of opinion that while we were willing to give Persia facilities for increasing her resources so as to deal with the important question of order, in which not only Persia but we ourselves are interested, we have made an unfair condition. He said that he understood that we had been prepared to agree to the sur-tax of 10 per cent. on the condition that the Persian Government accepted British officers to control the gendarmerie. That is not precisely what happened. We said that we were prepared to agree to the sur-tax of 10 per cent. if we were satisfied that the money thus provided would be used to secure order on those southern roads in which we have large interests. We did indeed suggest that one way of making sure that those roads would be effectively policed was to appoint British officers, but we did not make that a condition of the agreement to the sur-tax. We are perfectly prepared, so long as the work is properly done to see it done by other means. My hon. Friend is not entitled to say that that was a condition which we made, indeed in regard to that matter we have been exceedingly patient. We have given the Persian Government time and opportunity to deal with that matter, and I wish I could say at the present moment that the condition of the Southern road is satisfactory. Our anxiety there is to see order maintained, and our next anxiety is to see it maintained by the Persian Government. The whole object of any kind of understanding about Persia which has taken place is to achieve the very thing which my hon. Friend desires, namely, the maintenance of an independent Persia. With regard to the general attitude of which he complains, the policy of my right hon. Friend as to continuity in foreign politics was a policy with which our late honoured Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, identified himself, for in 1906 he said quite explicitly that he adopted the doctrine on general terms of maintaining the policy to which the country had been committed by the late Government, not, of course, in every detail, but as a matter of general policy. I think these really are the only points which were raised by my hon. Friend, the question about position in regard to Persia and the question of general policy. With regard to Persia, any one who looks dispassionately at what has taken place must admit that the British Government has exercised a great deal of patience, and is still exercising patience, and I hope that patience will have the result that we desire and that we shall find the Persian Government within a short time really able to maintain order, which is the first thing that we desire.
I desire to bring to the attention of the House a matter connected with the administration of public education. For some time past there has been a certain amount of friction between local education authorities and the Board of Education. It has been thought that whilst the financial assistance of the Board of Education has decreased the interference of the Board of Education in local administration has increased. Local education authorities have felt that, as far as finance goes, they have been extremely hardly treated, but side by side with that—and this, to my mind, is a much more serious point of criticism—they have felt, although it was extremely difficult to obtain explicit proof, that a certain measure of interference has been going on both with their appointment of local officials, who have nothing whatever to do with the Board, and with their internal policy. A short time ago there was a con- siderable number of rumours current with reference to a certain circular which was said to have been issued by the Board of Education a year ago. That circular has created a considerable amount of anxiety in the minds of all who have heard of its probable existence, and it was with that object that a week ago I put down a question, and it was with that object that I put down a somewhat more detailed question to-day, to try and obtain an explicit answer. Unfortunately, to-day that question was not reached, but I am glad to think I have this opportunity of attempting to obtain an explicit answer to my inquiries from the President of the Board of Education. The question I asked a week ago was this:—
As I say there was considerable anxiety in educational circles as to this particular question. The answer I received was:—"To ask the President of the Board of Education whether a circular was issued from the Board of Education on or about 6th January, 1910, in which the Board's Inspectors were advised to use their influence with local educational authorities to persuade them to restrict important administrative appointments to candidates educated at Oxford and Cambridge."
I feel confident that on that answer nine Members out of ten would come to the conclusion that I had been misled in asking the question, that it was a foolish question and unnecessary to ask. In view of that I propose to read to the House extracts from the circular to which I refer, and to leave it to the House to judge whether the reply of the President of the Board of Education was ingenuous, whether it met my particular point and whether local education authorities have not some ground for the anxiety they are feeling at present with reference to the interference of the Board of Education. The document to which I refer was a Memorandum drawn up by a highly responsible official of the Board of Education, the chief inspector of elementary schools. It was issued, I believe, originally for the information of responsible officials in the Board of Education. I believe what actually took place was that the document was first put before the attention of certain influential gentlemen of the Board of Education and was subsequently issued to each of the divisional inspectors of the Board of Education in various parts of the country. It was printed, I understand, on Board of Education paper and published at the expense of the Board of Education. I think the House will say the document is well worthy the attention of every Member of the House. It is headed, I acknowledge, "strictly confidential," but at the same time it has been brought to my attention from a variety of sources, and as it is already being circulated, or at any rate extracts from it, in the public Press it seems to me that this House has a perfect right to hear what I am going to read. It is headed E Memorandum No. 21, the date is 6th January, 1910, and it is entitled "The Status and Duties of Inspectors employed by Local Education Authorities." I will only deal with the sections that apply to the point I am raising."No, Sir, the Board have given no such advice and intend to give no such advice."
"1. In June, 1908, I sent a circular (see Appendix 1) to all the 'E' inspectors enquiring in general terms which of the local educational authorities had inspectors of their own, what the antecedents of these inspectors were, what salaries they received, what work they had to do, how they did their work, and whether the Board's inspectors concerned found them a help or a hindrance.
"3. Of these 123 inspectors 109 are men and only fourteen are women. No fewer than 104 out of the 123 are ex-elementary teachers, and of the remaining nineteen not more than two or three have had the antecedents which were usually looked for in candidates for junior inspectorships, namely, that they had been educated first at a public school and then at Oxford or Cambridge.
"4. The difference in respect to efficiency between ex-elementary teacher inspectors and those who have had a more liberal education is very great. Very few of our inspectors have a good word to say for local inspectors of the former type, whereas those of the later type are with three exceptions, well spoken of, In Liverpool, for example, where out of nine inspectors only three are of the ex-elementary teacher type, His Majesty's Inspector is able to say their work is well done on the whole, and there certainly it is a help, whereas in Manchester and Salford, where out of fifteen inspectors fourteen belong to the ex-elementary teacher class, His Majesty's Inspector says the existence of these inspectors stereotypes routine and perpetuates cast-iron methods and forms an effectual bar to development and progress.
"5. Apart from the fact that elementary teachers are as a rule uncultured and imperfectly educated, and though many, if not most, of them are creatures of tradition and routine, there are special reasons why the bulk of the local inspectors in this country should be unequal to the discharge of their responsible duties. It is in the large towns which had school boards before the appointed day that the majority of local inspectors are to be found. Thus in the twelve largest towns LL.M.B., etc. (I take that to mean Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham), there are no fewer than seventy-five local inspectors besides a great host of specialists. In these towns the Local Authorities have inherited from the School Board not merely a vicious system of local inspection, but also a large number of vicious local inspectors.
"7. Having regard to all these facts we cannot wonder that local inspection as at present conducted in the large towns is on the whole a hindrance rather than an aid to educational progress, and we can only hope that the local chief inspectors, who are the fountain heads of a vicious officialdom, will be gradually pensioned off, and if local inspection is to be continued in their areas their place will be filled by men of real culture and enlightenment.
6.0 P.M. The last section deals, I believe, with certain specific officials into whose case I will not enter at the present moment. The last point to which I desire to draw the attention of the House with reference to this circular is the schedule of questions in the Divisional Inspector's report, which they are invited to answer. The questions were issued to each divisional inspector, in various parts of the country. It was as follows:—"8. As compared with the ex-elementary teacher usually engaged in the hopeless task of surveying or trying to survey a wide field of action from the bottom of a well-worn groove, the inspector of public schools of the Varsity type has the advantage of being able to look at elementary education from a point of view of complete detachment, and therefore of being able to handle its problems with freshness and originality."
"I shall esteem it a favour if you will let me know which (if any) of your local education authorities have school inspectors of their own. In the case of those which have school inspectors, will you kindly inform me, (1) How many inspectors of each sex are employed by each local education authority: (2) What their antecedents have been (social, academical and professional, etc.); (3) What salaries they receive: (4) What work they have to do (please describe in some detail); (5) How they do this work, and (6) How far you find them a help or a hindrance in your own district work."
The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Runciman)
Whose words is the hon. Gentleman quoting?
I understand they are the words of the chief inspector of elementary schools. They are contained in a schedule of questions attached to the circular which was issued, I think, by the chief inspector of elementary schools. We may have our opinions as to the superiority of Oxford and Cambridge education, but at the same time it does seem to me a curious and significant fact that a circular of this kind should be issued by the Board of Education under its present régime. Only the other day I read a short account of a speech delivered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education (Mr. Trevelyan) at Coventry. He said that "what was happening was not mere indignation, not a mere party cry; it meant a revolt of the common man against the privileged man. The real inner meaning of what the Liberal party were doing was to provide new machinery of government by common men who feel the pinch of life." I venture to think that at the time the speech was delivered it must have been known by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education that the circular was in existence, and it is a very curious commentary upon the way the affairs of the Government are managed when you have the Parliamentary Secretary making a statement of this kind. This matter is really very serious. In the first place it is a very serious matter for the local education authorities. They have at any rate in name and in theory to administer public education locally, and it does seem to me a most serious thing that the Board of Education should go behind the local administration in this way and attempt, as apparently they are attempting, to obtain control of the local administration by ensuring that if not nominees of their own, at any rate only those who comply with conditions which the Board of Education approve, should be in the responsible positions under the local education authorities. That is not all. It is a very serious thing for the teaching profession that circulars of this kind are issued from the Central Authority for the administration of education.Anyone who knows and who has had any experience of the administration of education will know that these particular positions—positions of inspectorships under the local education authorities—are considered the plums of the public elementary schools teaching profession. They are well paid appointments, and in the past have, as a rule, been given to teachers who have distinguished themselves in practical educational work. Is it to go forth now from the Board of Education that in future none of these old elementary school teachers, none of these men who have been educated in public elementary schools, are to be considered suitable for these important administrative positions? Here, again, it seems to me very curious that this circular should be issued at a time when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are in power, when we see every day on the Treasury Bench one distinguished Member of the Government, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was himself educated, I believe, at a public elementary school, and when we see another Member of the Government, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Dr. Macnamara), who was not only himself educated at a public elementary school, but has since been a very efficient teacher in a public elementary school. Are we to understand that in future, whilst a place on the bench opposite is to be open to ex-board school teachers and to boys who were educated in public elementary schools, the positions of inspectors of elementary schools are to be closed to them? That is not the most serious point of my observations. I come to the very serious point now. It seems to me to be grossly unfair on a body of public servants that a document of this kind should be secretly in existence. The Board of Education may be perfectly right in their policy; they may be perfectly right in attempting to obtain these positions for University candidates, but at the same time I say it is extremely unfair that these ex-board school teachers, that these men who have been educated in public elementary schools, should know nothing whatever of this policy of the Board, and that there should be going on secretly and unknown to them a crusade against them. That reminds me more than anything of what took place in France two or three years ago—the system of inquisition which was instituted in the French army and of prying into the domestic details of officers. It was known as the system of affiches et dossiers. It seems to me that the Board of Education are adopting a similar policy to-day. These public servants who, after all, have very practical experience of educational administration, are to be left to apply for these particular positions without in the least knowing that the Board of Education is bringing to bear against them the great weight of its authority, and that they have little chance of obtaining the appointments. That seems to me to be very unfair to anybody, but particularly unfair to a body of men who have actual experience in educational work. I hope the President of the Board of Education will be able to explain the difference between the utterances of the Parliamentary Secretary and the written documents which are from time to time issued by the Board of Education. I hope he will be able to explain why this particular document, although in existence for more than a year, has not yet been withdrawn. The fact that it is a confidential document makes no difference whatever. When a document of this kind becomes, to a certain extent, public property, the first and only duty for a Public Department, if it does not approve of the opinions expressed in it, is to withdraw it. Lastly, I should like to ask the President of the Board of Education what guarantee he is going to give this House and the great teaching profession outside that this policy has been abandoned, and that in future the Board of Education do not intend to bring to bear the great weight of their authority and to confine these important appointments to candidates from Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the great public schools.
I regret that I was not here when the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hoare) started his speech, of which I heard the greater part. Throughout the whole of the part which I did hear he referred to a policy which he described in a series of extracts as the policy of the Board of Education. If he had paid careful attention to the reply which I gave to a question put by him last week, he would have gathered that the policy he has described this afternoon is not the policy of the Board of Education, never has been the policy of the Board of Education, and so long as I am connected with it never will be the policy of the Board of Education.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman. He was not in the House when I referred to the answer he gave me. I said, "I will read the question and answer and read the extracts to which I refer, and leave the House to draw its own conclusions."
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to wait until my answer has been given before coming to a decision as to the policy of the Board of Education. The policy which he describes has not been and will not be the policy of the Board of Education so long as I am connected with it. If that is not sufficient, and if he thinks that disingenuous, I would like to know what plainer language he requires on the subject. I would point out first of all that the hon. Gentleman has taken upon himself to produce in this House a document which is the property of the Board of Education, and is a private communication passing between officers of the Board. Private communications are a necessity, and must pass between officers in the conduct of their business. It was marked in the most prominent way "Strictly confidential," and the hon. Gentleman admitted that. Although he knew it was marked "Strictly confidential," he has taken upon himself to make public this document, which is distinctly private and confidential.I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's code of honour. I do not practice it, and I am surprised that he thought he was serving any useful public purpose in raking about among the musty waste paper baskets from which he must have extracted this document. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman, if I understand the nature of the document, is a receiver of stolen property, and I wish him joy of the possession. Let me describe to the House exactly what the document is. The document to which the hon. Member referred is a print of a minute written by Mr. Holmes, who, until last autumn, was chief inspector to the Board of Education on the elementary side. Mr. Holmes is as much entitled to his opinions on professional subjects as any other man, and, indeed, if the chief inspector is not allowed to express his opinions frankly on all subjects which come under his purview the Board will lose a great deal of valuable individual service which can be given by that servant of the Board. Mr. Holmes made inquiries of his own, and I do not think it will be said that he was not entitled to obtain all the knowledge he could and as he pleased if he was likely either to add to his own stock of knowledge or was likely to be of service to the Board. Mr. Holmes took his own way of doing it. When he obtained the information he wrote a minute on the whole of the information given him by his various inspectors, and, having done that, he had the minute printed in the usual way, as hundreds of departmental documents are printed. And when it was printed he sent it to the whole of the inspectors who serve on his staff. Throughout it expressed his own individual view. Never once did it say it expressed the view of the Board. The circular was not a circular issued in the ordinary way. It never went outside the area of the inspectors of the Board until the hon. Gentleman gave it the publicity he thought necessary in fulfilment of his public duty. He says this is an example of the way the Board of Education is first of all trying to control local administration. It has nothing whatever to do with local administration. The relation of the Board of Education to local administration has nothing whatever to do with the relation of the Board of Education to the Directors of Education. The circular in no way expresses the policy of the Board. It was in no way communicated to the local authorities or to anybody who was likely to have any power in the selection of these local inspectors. I do not believe that the local authorities would have known anything whatever about the views of Mr. Holmes, or paid any attention to them, had not the hon. Gentleman gone out of his way to give them publicity. We have never interfered with the local authorities in the selection of the local inspectors. Never once has the Board of Education told the local authorities what sort of men they ought to have, and never has it said that the men who are at present serving in the capacity of local inspectors are good, bad, or indifferent. We have never been asked for our opinion, and have never given it directly or indirectly. The hon. Gentleman says that it is a new duty that the Board is assuming in saying what men or women they approve or disapprove of to serve the local authorities in this capacity. The Board of Education has quite enough to do with looking after its own affairs without interfering with the local authorities or the local authorities' servants. The next point he makes upon this memorandum, which was, as I say, a circular purely among one section of the staff of the Board, and does not in any way portray the policy of the Board, is that it is unfair to ex-elementary school teachers. I make no comment on that. If Mr. Holmes were a member of this House I have no doubt he would say what he thought on the subject. Certainly, I am not going to go out of my way to defend the views of everybody who serves under the Board of Education on every educational subject. For my own part, I have never held the view that ex-elementary school teachers were unfitted for high office under the local authority or the Board And indeed, I have gone out of my way while I have been President of the Board to appoint ex-elementary school teachers under the Board, and very good men they are too. The very last man I appointed as junior inspector under the Board of Edution was an elementary scholar in my hon. Friend's constituency, I believe, when he was a boy, who since then has been down in Yorkshire and worked his way up. I do not know whether he suggests that in making that appointment I had any sinister object. I heard a laugh on the other side of the House. Is it due to the belief that no elementary scholar can be a good inspector, or that I appointed he man because of some fear that the hon. Gentleman would raise this subject some day? I tell the House quite frankly why I appointed him. He was the best man I could get for the post, and in selecting the best men as servants of the Board in the capacity of junior inspectors, I have gone out of my way to select men who have themselves taught in elementary schools. I should be a very poor President if I restricted my choice of men, because I think that the Board of Education ought to have on their staff men who have had the best possible educational training, and if I selected exclusively men who came from universities we should quite certainly suffer in the character of the staff which we now have. The hon. Gentleman says that he hopes that the teaching profession or that section which is composed of elementary school teachers, will take notice of the new policy of the Board, and how it persistently deals with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary (Mr. Trevelyan). Its policy is not inconsistent with the views expressed by my hon. Friend. The policy of the Board has been explained by myself and my hon. Friend in this House, and it has also been explained fully by our speeches outside, but our actions in the appointments made are far more eloquent than anything that may have been "aid from platforms or from this box as proving that I have always held the opinion, which I still hold, that elementary school teachers, provided that they have the necessary educational equipment, are, all things considered, better men for the purpose of inspectors than those who have not passed through elementary schools at all. I am referring purely to the work of the elementary school teachers. In the secondary branch naturally other considerations must come in. The main charge made by the hon. Gentleman is that we have interfered with the local bodies. I can quite understand him attempting to make as much mischief as he can between the Board and the elementary school teachers, and I think there is no other explanation for the action he has taken to-day. But in so far as the action of the local authorities is concerned I have never interfered with it. I do not intend to interfere with the local authorities, and I wish to exercise no influence over them in the selection of their own servants. The document which the hon. Gentleman has read extracts from this afternoon may have given him a certain amount of satisfaction. I can tell him it does not portray the policy of the Board, and I can repeat to him now what I said last week in answer to his question, that we have in no way been guided by the views expressed therein, and are not likely to be guided by them in the future. The hon. Gentleman wants to know whether we will withdraw the Memorandum. We cannot withdraw the Memorandum, which has passed through I do not know how many hands and is in possession of the inspectors of the Board and which is, like a large number of other circulars or memoranda that must of necessity go out between the chief inspector and the other inspectors, incorporated not so much on their files as in their heads, to treat it for what it is worth. The withdrawal of the circular will make no difference under the sun. The important thing is the policy of the Board. I have declared that quite explicitly in this House and outside of it, and I have no intention of departing from my declaration.
Sir WILLIAM ANSON
The right hon. Gentleman makes an unworthy insinuation against my hon. Friend for bringing forward, as I think he very properly brought forward, this circular to the notice of the House. The right hon. Gentleman says that the circular does not represent the policy of the Board, and he repudiates it. That is to say, that he repudiates the act of his own officer, his chief officer for the inspection of elementary schools. Having thrown over Mr. Holmes he appears to have utilised the information which Mr. Holmes obtained. He gets the information he wishes as to the quality of the local authorities' inspectors, and having got this information he repudiates the source from which he obtained it.
I do not know to what the hon. Baronet is referring. I do not repudiate the sources from which I obtained it. I say it contains the private views of Mr. Holmes, for which I could not be answerable. I am answerable for the policy of my own Board.
Sir W. ANSON
This circular was sent to all the Government inspectors by the chief inspector. How can it be said now that the Board of Education can repudiate the action of their own chief officer of inspection. The circular may be open to objection, but to tell us that it does not represent the policy of the Board is to tell us a thing which it is impossible to believe of any Government Department. What was the result of it all? That the chief inspector has sent out to every other inspector of the Board of Education a series of inquiries derogatory to the character of the inspectors of the local authorities. Having obtained the information which is required, the Board of Education has no doubt made what use of it it desired, and it is not now entitled to throw over the authority on which it obtained that information. But, considering that it is most important that the inspectors of the Board of Education should work in harmony with the inspectors of local authorities, I should like to know how that harmonious action is promoted by the reflections to which the circular, which the chief inspector sent out to his subordinates, contains.
Then why make it public?
Sir W. ANSON
It is the policy of the Board. It is the action of their inspector. It has gone the round of the country. How can you possibly regard a document of that sort as likely to remain locked in the bosom of the hundred or so inspectors to whom it was addressed? The right hon. Gentleman says that he has a great regard for inspectors drawn from public elementary schools. I have no doubt that he will find excellent inspectors who have begun their life in public elementary schools, including the fortunate gentleman who was his last and most successful appointment. But it is evident that this circular received the attention which a circular addressed by the chief inspector to his subordinates ought to receive. The action of the chief inspector seems to me open to very serious criticism, but as to the action of the Board of Education in repudiating responsibility and throwing over the sources from which they derived their knowledge, I leave the House to form its own conclusions.
I think that all on these benches must be profoundly thankful to the President of the Board of Education for his statement that this circular was not the policy of the Board. It seems to me that the issue of the circular raises a more important question even than the relations between the Board of Education and the local authorities, and that is the relation between the Board and the various officials across the street. The Board of Education is not the only Board which has a liberal policy and conservative servants, and I do protest in the name of our Liberal followers in the country against the issue of such a circular as this by an inspector of the Board of Education. Here we have this circular sent out broadcast all over the country, a circular which none of us on these benches would for one moment commend or approve of. It is sent forward not as the policy of the permanent officials of the Board of Education, but of the President himself. I am thankful to the hon. Member opposite for having brought this question up. I cannot imagine the damage that would have been done to the good repute of the Minister if it had been known to the world that that circular was the personal opinion of the President, and the Government of this country. It is nothing more than the personal opinion of the chief inspector, and where it not almost impossible to withdraw that circular now that it has gone out, I would even now, at the eleventh hour, beg my right bon Friend the President to withdraw it from circulation. We have thus only an example of what is going on in many other Government offices at the present day. These Conservative officials are doing all they can to ruin a good Liberal Ministry, if they have not done it satisfactorily in this case, but the issue of this circular is a most formidable thing. I do not wish to say anything harsh about the hon. Gentleman opposite, because I think he has done a service to hon. Members on this side of the House in affording them an opportunity to dissociate themselves from what has been done.
Lord HUGH CECIL
The right hon. Gentleman seeing the storm has thrown his subordinate over, with all the expedition that Jonah was thrown to the whale. It is an unusual thing for a Minister to do, and it is one of the numerous new precedents that the Government are setting. But what I do not understand was the printing of this circular. What is the use of printing documents and circulating them broadcast, or, if not broadcast, certainly to a large number of persons, if they do not represent anything except the private opinions and the disavowed private opinions of a distinguished officer employed by the Board of Education. It is a very astonishing way of conducting official business. You have a circular which, as the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education explains, does not in the least represent the policy of the Board, and if it does not represent the policy of the Board, it is merely an essay on the theory of appointing inspectors. I really think that the right hon. Gentleman's position would be stronger if he were able to show that he had said a word of disavowal of this circular; but nothing was done as long as the circular was doing its appointed task. The right hon. Gentleman did not say a single word about the circular; he merely says that it represents a private opinion which carries no official weight. But if it had no weight, we ought to be told why the Government took no step to undo the mischief that such a circular would naturally cause—the undue misapprehension or the undue anxiety which those views might produce in the minds of those who would indirectly hear of them. They had actually appeared in the newspapers.Though the circular was ostensibly confidential, we know that it had a very wide circulation in one way or another, and it has never been disavowed. Why is it that for the first time the right hon. Gentleman gets up and tells us that it does not represent his policy. I am afraid I am suspicious enough to think that if there had never been a Debate in this House the circular would have had whatever weight attaches to any official document, and the right hon. Gentleman would never have taken the trouble to disavow it. It would have done whatever the chief inspector intended it to do. Whatever may be the merits of the doctrine set forth—I should be the last to deny the great value of a University education, representing as I do a University—but whatever the work it was intended to do it would have done but for the Debate in this House. I think that raises a point which has already penetrated the minds of hon. Members opposite. How different the policy of the Government is when it works through its bureaucracy from its policy when declared from the Treasury Bench. We catch the Board of Education, as it were, in undress; we see it as it were in an unguarded hour, when it is not thinking of hon. Members below the Gangway. I should be the last to deny the great value of University education, but I think it would be better, when the Government are perorating to earn the cheers of the Labour party, if they more often bore in mind the value of that University education. There is a singular contrast between the perorations of Ministers on the platform and the printed documents which are circulated at the public expense, and they only discover that they do not represent their views when they are challenged about them across the floor of the House of Commons.
Sir ALFRED MOND
I do not think the explanation we have had from the President of the Board of Education is complete. I should like to know whether this Chief Inspector, whose policy is not the policy of the Board, is still employed by the Board.
No; he is not.
Sir A. MOND
In discussing these Estimates we have heard a good deal about whether money cannot be saved to the taxpayer. I should like to know why Government officers should be allowed, at the public expense, to circulate printed documents which do not represent any policy, but merely their own views. We are told that an officer of the Board of Education printed and circulated a document without its having been in any way checked by any responsible Minister at all. It seems to me if that is the case there must be a colossal waste of money. Why print a document at all? Typewriting machines could be used, and the work could be done very more cheaply than having a hundred of these circulars printed. There is a great waste of money in printing in the Government Departments, where an amount of printing is done that would be regarded as wasteful in any private business. We ought to hear a little more on the subject of this circular. It is absolutely deplorable, not merely because of the sentiments expressed in it, but because of the way in which it is unnecessarily offensive. I do not think that anybody imagined that a document of that class sent to so many individuals could possibly always remain private and confidential; and a great amount of pain must necessarily have been caused to a large and deserving class of elementary school teachers in this country, who are doing an enormous amount of work for the country, and who are by no means over remunerated. I am very glad, personally, to hear that this gentleman who issued the circular has gone, and that the President of the Board of Education disavows his policy. I hope sincerely that in future instructions will be given to the officials of his Department that these documents should not be issued without first having the approval or disapproval of the Board of Education; otherwise the people of the country will be really unable to understand whose policy they are to carry out. If the chief inspector sends out one set of ideas, and the President of the Board of Education sends out an entirely different set of ideas, it will really be very difficult to know what policy to follow. I trust that in future precautions will be taken, and that if ideas are to be circulated in this way, at least they shall be the ideas for which we, on this side of the House, stand.
Mr. W. R. PEEL
The observations which fell from the hon. Member opposite I think show that he did not quite understand the position of the chief inspector, and that he rather misunderstood what the President of the Board of Education said. The right hon. Gentleman said that the inspector was no longer at the Board of Education, the suggestion being that he had retired, and that no other circular would be sent out. Not a bit of it. The inspector retired on his pension quite comfortably, and no doubt he will be succeeded by some other chief inspector who may probably send out other circulars on all kinds of subjects connected with school teaching. A week ago a question was put by my hon. Friend beside me as to whether a circular to this effect was sent out from the Board of Education. Of course we do not know of the intricacies and complexities of these Government Departments. We imagine in our simple way that if a circular is sent out by an officer of the Department that it comes out of the Department itself. I frankly confess that, until the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Education, I thought he gave a flat denial to the whole thing, and that my hon. Friend was wrong in thinking that a circular was ever issued. Fortunately, my hon. Friend is a man of great persistence, and I do not think he really deserves the most unjustifiable criticisms which the right hon. Gentleman passed upon him. My hon. Friend asked a question, and, not satisfied with the answer, he proceeded to ask a further question, and then afterwards raised the matter. Unless he had brought the question up to-day, we might have remained under the impression that there was no such circular.
I was asked whether the Board had ever given that advice to the local authorities, and I said emphatically, "No."
I will give what the question was which my hon. Friend asked the President of the Board of Education:—
The answer to that was:—"Whether a circular was issued from the Board of Education on or about 6th January, 1910, in which the Board's inspectors were advised to use their influence with the local educational authorities to pursuade them to restrict their important administrative appointments to candidates educated at Oxford and Cambridge."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1911, col. 2056–2057.]
You see how very carefully the answer is given. The right hon. Gentleman did not answer the real question as to whether a circular had been issued or not."No, Sir. The Board have given no such advice and intend to give no such advice."
I was asked if any circular had gone out advising the local authorities to make appointments of a certain nature. To that I answered in the negative. I followed that up this afternoon by saying that no such advice had been given by the Board of Education, and that no such advice had been given to the local authorities by any officer of the Board of Education.
It is quite true that no such advice was given by the Board.
No officer connected with the Board of Education gave that advice to any local authority.
It may be my ignorance, but is the chief inspector not an officer of the Board of Education? If the right hon. Gentleman throws over that person, and says he was not an officer of the Board——
I am very loth to interrupt the hon. Gentleman over and over again. I am not equivocating when I say that no advice was given by anybody connected with the Board of Education, of any sort or kind, to any local authority.
I am bound to say that I find it more difficult than ever to understand the matter. The suggestion is made that certain advice is given in the circular to officials to use their influence with the local authorities. Is not that so? I do not carry that question any further; that point is perfectly plain. The right hon. Gentleman asked what is the use of bringing up this matter in public? I should like to ask very respectfully what is the use of being President of the Board of Education if these documents are allowed to be sent out without his knowing anything whatever about them? I daresay that many things may go on which the right hon. Gentleman does not know very much about. It seems an extraordinary thing that a very important circular of this kind on a broad point of policy should be sent out, and remain out nearly a year, before the right hon. Gentleman knows anything about it.I should like, as a matter of curiosity, to find out from the right hon. Gentleman when he first got to know about this circular, because, to tell the truth, and I do not know whether he will credit me, I have heard that the right hon. Gentleman, not liking the circular very much, made the greatest possible efforts to prevent it becoming public, and took great trouble to do so. Again I want to press this point. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that this policy is not the policy of the Board, and, not only that, but that he is absolutely opposed to it, and that, in fact, his policy is almost exactly the reverse of the policy suggested in the circular. Is it possible for a great officer of the Board to press forward himself a policy which is totally the reverse of the policy of the President of the Board without the President knowing anything about it. If that is so, it does seem to me to show most extraordinary results of the organisation of that office. I think, really, it is a thing on which the Under-Secretary might enlighten us. How do we know that there is not along with this a third policy running on parallel lines. I think, to avoid such that there would require to be more careful organisation in the composition of the Board and in the office. The right hon. Gentleman tells us, further, that there is not the slightest intention of interfering with the independence of the local authorities, but what will the local authorities imagine when they get a circular from the Board's office of this kind communicated to them. It is impossible that they should not be influenced by it. They are very sensitive to advice coming from the Board, and if advice comes from an official of the Board to act on the suggestions made, such advice is treated as the right hon. Gentleman knows it is treated, as being much more than advice or suggestion, but as something in the nature of a command. I really do not think the right hon. Gentleman can get out of this difficulty in the way he has done. Whether he is conscious of it or not he can only assent to the statement that he did not know and does not know what is going on. This was really an effort to control the local authority in the choice of those whom they select for certain positions. The matter throws an interesting light upon the policy of the Conservative party in doing away with School Boards, because we are told by this Gentleman that the very worst inspectors he has got under the local authorities are those who were established and nominated by the old School Boards. Apparently the new authorities, the local authorities, are appointing far better inspectors than those set up by the late School Boards. I think the right hon. Gentleman said some very harsh things and very severe things about my hon. Friend who has raised this matter. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that this matter ought not to have been brought before the public. Why? Simply because hard things are said of the elementary teachers. Does he think when all the harm is done that we must be silent on the subject, and have no opportunity of ventilating this matter in public in order that the public may know the methods and the ways in which the right hon. Gentleman's administration is conducted.
Mr. CHIOZZA MONEY
The House has learned with satisfaction that the right hon. Gentleman disavows the contents of the circular. I would ask my right hon. Friend does he propose to make his disapproval known to the recipients of the circular? I think that that is an entirely necessary thing to do. Unfortunately, our Debates are not very fully reported by the public Press, and, therefore, possibly a considerable number of inspectors may never learn of the disapproval. They would never learn that the hon. Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), with a fine democratic feeling which we, all admire, is entirely opposed to the contents of this particular circular. There is one other point I should like to ask my right hon. Friend. Mr. Holmes, the chief inspector, who committed this offence—I do not think I am using too strong a word—is no longer in the service of the Board of Education, but I take it that Mr. Holmes has a successor. Has my right hon. Friend made plain to the successor to Mr. Holmes that this particular course of issuing private opinions in the form of a public circular is not approved by the Board of Education. I think the House would like to have an assurance from our right hon. Friend that that point has been made perfectly plain, and that there is no possibility of a repetition of this offence.
Sir PHILIP MAGNUS
I have not the slightest desire to make any sort of party capital out of the unfortunate incident which has been brought under notice by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hoare). There is no doubt about it, it is a very serious matter, and requires the careful attention of the House. I do not think that anyone can possibly blame my hon. Friend for having brought this matter to the consideration of the House. May I ask the President of the Board of Education what course he thinks my hon. Friend ought to have adopted being possessed of this information seriously affecting the conduct of the Board of Education, and whether or not it was his duty to bring it, as he has done, under the consideration of the House? I feel quite certain from what I personally know of the President of the Board of Education, and of the Parliamentary Secretary, that the views expressed in that circular are quite contrary to their convictions, to their ideas and to the policy they would like to carry into effect. But this is a very serious matter, as has been pointed out by more than one speaker, that the policy of the President should be in distinct opposition to the policy of the chief inspector who serves under the President; that is a matter that requires very grave consideration.It has been suggested that this was a private and confidential circular sent out by the chief inspector of the Board to other inspectors with a view to obtaining certain information. I have not had the opportunity of seeing the circular myself because the circular having been marked "private and confidential" my hon. Friend has not even allowed me to look at it. He considered it was only his duty to bring it before the House, and not to allow any Member to see it. It is quite certain that the circular contains a great deal more than is suggested by the President of the Board of Education. It contains not only questions which he put with a view to obtaining information, but also contained a strong expression of opinion which everyone who received it would regard as the opinion of the Board of Education. In fact, I do not see how anyone could arrive at any other conclusion. It is not the custom of the President of the Board to issue in his own name circulars dealing with educational matters to all the authorities throughout the kingdom. Those circulars are invariably signed by the Secretary of the Board or by some other officer. How is it possible, therefore, to distinguish a circular signed by a chief officer of the Board of Education from a circular which expresses the deliberate opinion of the Board itself. The whole country would be thrown into absolute confusion as to what the Board really meant, and what it did not mean. Let us see how serious are the consequences of this matter. The President of the Board of Education has said that he is strongly in favour of appointing, when their qualifications are sufficiently good, ex-elementary teachers to some of the higher positions of the Board. Could there be anything more opposed to that policy than the statement of the chief inspector that ex-elementary teachers, and all other persons except Oxford and Cambridge graduates, are unfit to act as local inspectors? What happens when a local authority is thinking of appointing a local inspector? The local authority is very often advised by His Majesty's Inspector who frequently visits the schools. They would ask his opinion as to the various qualifications of the persons from amongst whom they wished to make the appointment. The district inspector, under the Board of Education, would have received from the chief inspector under the Board a letter not only asking questions, but distinctly stating that all other persons except Oxford and Cambridge graduates are unfit to act as local inspectors under the local authority. Therefore, it cannot be said for one moment that the President of the Board through his officer was not interfering in the appointment of local inspectors by local committees. That is really a very serious matter. No one has considered the matter of the circular, as none of us have seen it. We have only been dealing with the question of the administration of the Board, but I am very glad to know that the President of the Board of Education repudiates entirely the ideas which have been expressed by the chief inspector. I hope that fact will be generally known throughout the whole country. Surely it is not only the elementary teachers who have been affected by this expression of opinion on the part of the chief inspector, but it affects all the local universities throughout the kingdom. We are told that only Oxford and Cambridge graduates are fitted to be appointed to the positions of inspectors. Representing another University, I should be very much surprised if graduates of London University, some of whom have been expressly trained to discharge the duties of inspectors and teachers, were not considered competent to act as local inspectors or chief inspectors. London University has a training college of its own incorporated with the University. The students of such a training college might surely be regarded as competent to act as inspectors if they obtain a sufficiently high degree. But the opinion of the chief inspector is that none but graduates of Oxford and Cambridge are competent. Of course, I have the greatest possible appreciation for the course of study pursued in those older Universities, but at the same time I do think it right to say a word not only for the University of London, but also for the provincial Universities, and for the Universities of Scotland and of Ireland. I consider that it reflects severely on the administration of the Board of Education, that circulars can go forth, private circulars, I admit, to all the inspectors throughout the country, without the knowledge of the President of the Board of Education, giving expression to opinions exactly the opposite of the policy of the Board. I trust the facts which my hon. Friend, in the discharge of what I consider to be a public duty, has brought under the notice of the House, will prevent such an occurrence in the future.
I had no intention ten minutes ago of intervening in this Debate, but I feel, though I am somewhat timorous in the matter, that I cannot allow the raising of this question as to the circular to go by without saying a few words on a matter so vital to the elementary teachers in this country, and not alone to them, but to every boy in the elementary schools to-day who has in view teaching as a profession. When we remember the type of inspector who is responsible for this circular, one, I believe, of the most generous-minded inspectors who ever reigned at the Board of Education, and when we find that from this inspector such a circular may come, what may we expect if a truly reactionary inspector secured the reins of office under the present President of the Board of Education.7.0 P.M. Mr. Holmes has shown himself educational in spirit and generous in disposition, but, unfortunately, in a weak moment he has allowed the spirit which has too long animated the Board of Education to break out in hostility to everything which does not emanate from Oxford or Cambridge. When, in conjunction with this, we have the same spirit manifested in the regulations, or perhaps not so much in the regulations as in the administration overshadowing the pupil teacher centres, the secondary schools, and the training colleges for teachers in elementary schools, I think the time has come for making an emphatic protest, notwithstanding the caveat entered by the President of the Board. We have found that, if not by regulation, at any rate by suggestion, the present municipal secondary schools are gradually losing from their teaching ranks men who have knowledge and practical acquaintance with the elementary school side, and we have found that inspectors have not been slow quietly to suggest that the staff should be strengthened chiefly with men drawn from Oxford or Cambridge. We find sometimes in the training colleges the same thing taking place, namely, the augmentation of the teaching staff by men drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of those who have had the privilege of an acquaintance with Oxford or Cambridge. But there are other colleges and universities which can give experience and privileges apart from Oxford and Cambridge. When we find in the training colleges an attempt being made, if not to prevent their doing so, at any rate to suggest to the men in them that they should not proceed during the course of their training to the acquisition of a degree, then we see what the intention is at any rate in the minds of some at the Board with less democratic instincts than the President himself. The policy in this matter ought to be the policy of the President, and in such an important matter, showing the whole attitude and policy of the Board, the President ought to have been cognisant of the sending out of the circular. What is the state of the administration of the Board when a circular of this magnitude, conveying so much to the teachers of elementary school origin, and boys who propose to follow in their footsteps, can emanate from the Board? What is the use of opening the doors for boys to pass from the elementary school to the secondary school and thence to the university, if when they graduate at the University of London or at Sheffield they are precluded from reaping the fruits of a university culture somewhat akin to that of Oxford? The only thing which has given me pleasure in this Debate is the disavowal by the President of the policy of the late chief inspector. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will keep a closer eye on the circulars which emanate from his Department, that the policy of the Liberal party will be liberal in administration as well as on the platform, and that if they are really keen on extending higher education to the children of the workers they will not at the same time close against them the doors to the avenues of higher professional preferment.
Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
I have been waiting for some time to hear from the President, or at any rate the Secretary of the Board of Education, a disavowal of the language used by the right hon. Gentleman in reference to my hon. Friend for bringing this matter forward. It is scarcely necessary to labour the point after the observations which have fallen from Member after Member on the benches opposite. They have got up, as I think most honourably, and thanked my hon. Friend for having brought for the first time into the light a circular which might have had such very far-reaching effects. I put it to the President of the Board of Education, is it right to refer to my hon. Friend as a receiver of stolen goods? Does his own integrity in this matter, after the answers he has given to questions, stand on such an eminence that be can afford to tell my hon. Friend that his code of honour has been broken by his conduct? Such declamation, I venture to say, has been heard with contempt, not only by my Friends on this side but by hon. Members opposite. It is perfectly plain that my hon. Friend has done a perfectly good service in bringing forward this matter. This circular was issued, I gather from the speech of my hon. Friend, by the chief inspector so far back as January, 1910. It was circulated to the inspectors under the Board of Education with express directions to them to influence the local authorities' inspectors by its contents. That is precisely what was done.
Mr. A. LYTTELTON
The chief inspector sent the circular to the inspectors under him, giving numerous and very caustic comments upon the social, academic, educational and other qualifications of the school board elementary teachers. That is what he did, and he did it in order that the inspectors should influence the local authorities.
Mr. A. LYTTELTON
For what other purpose could it be? The President of the Board shakes his head; it is quite useless for him to do that. This circular was printed with an object. It was not intended to remain in the breasts of the inspectors; it was intended to go from them to local authorities to induce the local authorities to use their patronage in a certain way. That is plain to every Member of the House except the President of the Board. When did the right hon. Gentleman first know about the circular? He has not told us. He has used a great deal of violent language, but he has not dealt with the relevant facts. When did he hear of the circular? Did he hear of it before questions began to be put to him? I expect he did a long time before. Did he disavow it? What has he done with the reports which have been made in consequence of it? These are very relevant matters; they test the sincerity of the violent language which has been used, and until we have satisfactory answers in regard to them I shall continue to hold the opinion which my Noble Friend said he was so suspicious as to entertain, namely, that if my hon. Friend had not made this circular public, and dragged these declarations from the President of the Board, we should have heard nothing about it, and that this circular would have been operating insidiously in the minds of inspectors throughout the country, who would have been following its directions in endeavouring to influence the local authorities.
Sir JOHN JARDINE
I for one am extremely glad that the hon. Member opposite has brought this circular to the notice of the House. Considering its far-reaching consequences and the long time it has been in operation, it seems to me to be exactly one of those public documents that ought to receive the full consideration of the House. I had intended to take the line followed by the hon. Member for the University of London (Sir P. Magnus), but I need not now do so. I was going to refer to the provincial Universities, beginning with that of Durham which started in 1832, and which has been followed by the creation of many others since, and to the ancient Universities of Scotland and to those of Ireland. To me this circular seems a curiosity. It was Dr. Johnson, I think, who, referring to some people of great learning, expressed the wish that they would turn aside from learning to be wise. I could not help thinking the same of this educational document, substituting "education" for "learning" in the quotation. In this curious production we have a seeming indifference for the graduates of every University except those of Oxford and Cambridge, and at the end the public schoolboy is brought forward as a kind of angel of light, although anybody whether academic or not must be aware from his intercourse in life that everywhere you meet with people of talent and distinction who have not the label of the public school, and have never been at Oxford or Cambridge. This House itself is an instance of that to which I refer. I think the feeling on this side is distinctly against any endeavour on the part of a public department to put forward the old thesis that talent or ability or conscientiousness is confined to any section of the people. There are millions who could never have found the money to go to a public school, much less to Oxford or Cambridge. I therefore acquit the hon. Member of any wrong in bringing this matter forward. In all parts of the House we are very well pleased to have had so animated and full a discussion, and to have obtained such a statement of policy as we have had from the head of the Department this afternoon.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
The Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil), in that graceful phraseology which so well becomes him, spoke of catching the Board of Education in undress. He spoke as if in dissociating itself from the opinions of an official the Board of Education had been guilty of some almost indecent offence or indecent innovation, perhaps something like the introduction of the harem skirt. But there are worse things than indecent innovations, even if this dissociation is an innovation. There might, for instance, be the use of a dramatic fiction to embellish a controversial composition. There might, for instance, be acting as receiver of stolen property. There might be many other things which are more to be deprecated than introducing an innovation into a Government Department—if this be an innovation. But I want to ask whether it is an innovation? Whether there is anything remarkable in a Government Department dissociating itself from the views of an official which have been given publicity to, not by that official himself, but by some person outside without his authority and without his sanction? I have no doubt that if we look back a number of years to the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was responsible for the policy of this House, at the time, say, when the Education Bill was being introduced, if the archives of the Board of Education were searched, there would perhaps be found there many expressions of opinions by officials strongly controversial and strongly opposed on points of detail to that Bill.For instance—I am not suggesting that it was so—perhaps some minutes written by Mr. Sadler might be found in which were matter hostile to the principles of that Bill. These may even have been printed; certainly they would be circulated among the officials concerned. The Noble Lord talks—I thought I heard someone say "publicity?" with a note of interrogation?—as if this document to which we are referring had been published. It has never been published till to-night by one of the hon. Members opposite. Many documents have been circulated by this House which have not been public. The circulation of a minute, among other communications, expressing the private opinions of an official, can certainly not be characterised as a publication. Indeed, I should say it was a necessary and essential part of the system under which our public officials work that they should have full liberty to circulate amongst themselves minutes expressing their views upon points of policy. It is only by this circulation of these views—doubtless sometimes diverging from those held by other officials and by the authorities themselves—that a just comparison can be made and a correct decision arrived at. I thoroughly dissociate myself with what has been said in condemnation of these particular views embodied in this minute—or private circular. The views in it are those which we have every reason to believe are not, and never have been, held by the Government. It is asked why did not the President of the Board of Education publicly disavow these views. Why should he do anything publicly in relation to a document which has never been given publicity to? He has disavowed these views when the matter has been given publicity to! He has disavowed them in the strongest and most complete manner possible. Therefore I think the charge of publication does not lie with hon. Member's opposite, who themselves have given publicity to this document.
I do not think that the President of the Board of Education has much to be congratulated on in his supporter, because the hon. Gentleman seems to have most curious notions as to how things are administered, and as to the way they ought to be administered, in Government offices. He seems to think that the ideal of practical administration is to be found when all the officials of Government Departments issue minutes, printed at the public expense, expressing not the views of their official chief, but their own views, whether for the chief's purpose I do not know, or for the information of the other officials. That is not my view of good administration. The instance, of course, which the hon. Member has in mind does not in the least apply to this case. I gather that he has in his mind that instance of a minute written by an official and submitted to his chief for the purposes of discussing by his chief. That is the proper and natural course to pursue. It is quite a different thing when an official issues to his subordinates in the country a minute printed in the Department, which naturally therefore gets a considerable amount of circulation, if it is not actually published. What it would be interesting to know, and what, I think, we ought to know from the President of the Board of Education, or the Under-Secretary, who has not yet spoken in the course of this discussion, is: When did this circular, which the right hon. Gentleman now repudiates, first come to his notice, or to the notice of the Under-Secretary? It was circulated on 6th January, 1910. Did the right hon. Gentleman know of it previous to this, or how soon after its circulation did he know of it? If it was only a short time after its circulation obviously he could have put the matter right at once by getting the same chief inspector, under his orders, to issue another minute to that of the inspector counteracting the effect of the first minute. If that course was not taken, although the right hon. Gentleman did know the circumstances shortly afterwards, then I say he showed a great want of appreciation of his duties as Minister of Education; that is, if he did not approve of the policy which his subordinate had caused to be circulated. There was another point which rather surprised me in the course of the discussion, and which was rather in the nature of an interruption. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea was wondering whether this chief inspector was still at the Board of Education, and the right hon. Gentleman said he was no longer there. It appeared from the nature of the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that this official was no longer at his post at the Board of Education was largely owing to this particular fact.
Well, that was rather the impression which was left upon my mind.
I never said any such thing.
The right hon. Gentleman made an interruption in the course of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea who was asking whether this official had been allowed to remain in his post. The interruption was that he was no longer in that post.
The Noble Lord is not stating what is correct. I was asked whether Mr. Holmes was still at the Board. I said, "No, he is not; Mr. Holmes retired last winter."
That is exactly what I said. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I said he was no longer at the post. The answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave in his interruption of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea was quite capable of the interpretation I gave it, and a great many Members of the House thought so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] He was no longer at the Board of Education owing to this episode. But if I have succeeded in getting from the right hon. Gentleman the admission that that is so, I am very satisfied. We know now, therefore, that no disciplinary steps of any kind were taken in regard to this official. As a matter of fact he did not leave the Board of Education till eleven months after this circular was first issued. I think we are entitled to know what steps the President of the Board of Education took during those eleven months. Did he in the first place know of the circular during that time, and if he knew of it, what steps did he take to repudiate the action of his official, to take his official to task for misrepresenting the policy of the Board, and to correct the effects of that circular amongst those who had received it? I think we are entitled to an answer from the Under-Secretary.
There is a feeling that there is a certain amount of laxity creeping into the matter of the publication of Government Papers. We were rather tried, if I may say so, in the discussion of the Army Vote in relation to a Paper which really was only advisory, and was published and circulated. The Army Paper was published with the sanction of the Chief. In this case we have a Paper published without the sanction of the Chief, and opposed to his opinions. Who paid for the printing? If this was paid for by the private funds of this gentleman and circulated quite obviously as a private paper supporting only his private views, that is another thing! But if this paper, on the face of it, as I understand it to be, is really a Government Paper, issued at the Government expense and actually contrary to the opinions of the Chief, I think this sort of thing ought to be put a stop to. I think we are all indebted to the hon. Gentleman who has brought this matter forward. We have now had it elucidated that this gentleman, whom the President of the Board of Education said was now no longer in the service of the Board, was left in the service of the Board for nearly a year after the publication of this particular document. Was any reprimand given to him? Was the document in any way contradicted? Was its influence in any degree checked? Not at all.
I have been connected with the University, not only of London, but of Manchester, where we have a very large organisation for training teachers for the very highest posts. One of the stimulants offered to them is the hope that they may reach the higher posts. But a document like this goes forward and bars the door absolutely. It is nonsense to say that it has not the sanction of the President. It had the influence of the Board, and so was poisoning the minds of the local authorities all over the country. I wish, first of all, to say that the Government Department ought to put a stop to this kind of publication, the using of their name, and the going forth of these documents into the country without their sanction. Speaking as a business man, if anyone did anything of the kind in business he would be discharged. Therefore, I think it ought to be stopped. Certainly this particular circular is most objectionable; and we ought to be all grateful to the hon. Member for trying to stop a growing bad habit.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. Trevelyan)
I think that the House might credit my right hon. Friend with having maintained throughout the whole of the time he has been at the head of the Board of Education the policy which he enunciated this afternoon. This is not the first time that he has told the House what that policy is. In March of last year he was asked a question as to how many head masters of elementary schools had been appointed inspectors of elementary schools during the previous five years. He replied to that question that nine of His Majesty's inspectors appointed during the five years had held posts as head masters of elementary schools, and four had been assistant masters in elementary schools. Of these thirteen appointments, seven were made by my right hon. Friend. That has always been the policy of my right hon. Friend. I think that the charge made by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford is certainly unfair. Whatever he may think of the special matter which we are discussing to-day, he can hardly have been in any doubt as to what my right hon. Friend's real policy was. I think the House is perhaps a little apt to exaggerate the importance of what has happened. My right hon. Friend has made no pretence whatever that he approved of this particular document. Of course, if he had known it was to be issued he would not have allowed it to go out; but I must remind the House that in the conduct of a Department like ours we have a large number of officials who are regarded by us as trustworthy, and are trustworthy, and who must be allowed a certain discretion of their own in the administration of the Department. Surely the House would not wish us never to allow a Civil servant with a Conservative tendency to express his mind. The thing could not be done. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why Conservative?"] Because we are a Liberal Ministry, and, conversely, surely you do not want to gag these Civil servants. This circular expressed a certain tendency of opinion which is not the exact tendency of opinion of those at the head of the Board, and unless in the case of any expression of opinion by all our Civil servants to each other, and not to the public, we are in every case to look through what they send out, we cannot on all occasions prevent confidential and only confidential expressions of views of which we do not altogether approve.This circular, I must remind the House, is absolutely confidential, and never would have been heard of if it had not in some way got into the hands of somebody who had no right to use it and who eventually made it public. I have been asked when the circular was issued. It was issued, I believe, in April, 1910. Mr. Holmes, who issued that circular, left in November of the same year. My right hon. Friend did not see the circular until after Mr. Holmes had left, and on the first occasion when the policy of that circular is challenged and becomes public, because of some most improper use made of it, my right hon. Friend takes action at once, repudiates it to the House. I do not know what more anyone wants.
I confess that a good many things have puzzled me in the course of this Debate. For example, I have been quite unable to follow the use of the word "democratic" in the mouth of the two hon. Members. They seem to think there are some things, apparently, which are democratic in an elementary school which are undemocratic in Oxford or Cambridge. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members cheer that, which shows that they have the courage of their convictions, and adhere to their use of the word, which is certainly quite strange to me. In the long years of political controversy in which I have been engaged I never heard the word so used. It is entirely unparalleled. What is there "undemocratic" in a university graduate? What is there more "democratic" in a graduate of a provincial or new university than in a graduate of the older universities? These are terms of prejudice which ought never to be introduced in a Debate of this kind. But apart from a chance discussion of that character, let us ask what light the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has thrown upon the matter. The hon. Gentleman gets up and defends the policy of the Department and what he tells us, as far as I understand it, is that this is a kind of circular which in all Departments goes about from one subordinate official to another at the public expense, collecting information upon various points of high policy without the head of the Department knowing anything about it. I confess I learned that with great surprise. I was not aware that was the practice of any public Department in this country. It may be worth while for a Department to make investigations, as to the character of the inspectors appointed by local authorities, though why it should be necessary to find that out I do not know, because they have no power over them. The local education authorities are perfectly independent, and, therefore, it seems to me, the object of the inquiry is still a mystery. Why this document was written and circulated is as unknown to me and others like me as it is to the Board. My only regret with regard to the great education authorities who have control of the policy of education in their counties is, not that they are too independent of the Department but that they are not independent enough, and what I should like to see is that they should have advisers whether taken from Oxford or Cambridge, or from the Scotch Universities, or the Irish Universities, and that they should have a policy of their own, suited to the peculiar needs of their own districts, and that they should be less subject than they seem to be now to a cast-iron system that may be good for one part of the country but not at the same time good for other parts of the country.I do not wish to trespass into the broader question of educational policy, but I repeat with emphasis that what I want to see is that these local inspectors under the education authorities and these advisers to the education authorities should be men of as great originality and independence as possible, from whatever source they may be drawn and whatever their previous education may have been. Apparently the view of Mr. Holmes was that if any inspector had during the past years of his life been engaged in the most useful and also most laborious duty of carrying on the work of elementary education, he would not when he came to the work of inspection approach the subject with a sufficiently fresh mind. That, apparently, I gather, was Mr. Holmes' view, though why he should think it necessary to restrict the choice to Oxford or Cambridge I confess remains a mystery to me. I want to know why the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Department has neither apologised to my hon. Friend behind me nor has instructed his colleague Bear him to apologise on his behalf. The right hon. Gentleman, apparently with a view to crushing this Debate by vehemently striking the box in front of him and expressing his indignation that my hon. Friend should have dared to bring the subject before the House, is not content with ordinary parliamentary attacks upon my hon. Friend but accused him of being the receiver of stolen goods. He adheres to that, unmoved by the fact that; almost "very speaker, including the speakers on his own side of the House, paid public tribute to my hon. Friend for the course he pursued—tribute which on either side of the House we are not in the habit of paying to the receivers of stolen goods. The profound divergence in the ethical view of the head of the Board of Education, and Gentlemen upon his own side of the House, and those who criticise him on this, has evidently made itself quite clearly felt in the whole course of this two hours' Debate. My hon. Friend found this question already ventilated in at least two newspapers of great circulation. He brought it before the tribunal, in which it could be discussed, in terms of which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has the least right to complain, terms, at all events, no stronger than those used of the right hon. Gentleman by his Friends below the Gangway opposite, and the only reward he gets is that the right hon. Gentleman, at a loss to excuse himself, attacks my hon. Friend in language almost—no, I will not say almost, I retract the word almost—in language of indecent violence, and neither condescends to apologise nor permits any apology to be made from the bench on which he sits. Without going back to the question as to how much the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for the circular, or ought to be responsible, let me point out that when he discovered this circular was effecting its work in every part of the country, he acquiesced, as far as we understand the matter, let the matter rest, and sent round no counteracting document, and did not suggest that the policy of the circular was not the policy of the Board. I do not ask how he justified that. "We had two speeches from the benches opposite, and neither of them justified it. I presume then that no justification is possible. At all events, in addition to his official deficiency, he need not have introduced into our Debates a mode of controversy entirely unworthy of the subject, and unworthy of the office he holds, and I may add entirely unworthy of himself. Although he has had since then plenty of opportunity to meditate over what was said, I am sorry he did not take the opportunity of correcting what I am convinced was a hasty expression and of giving such instructions as might be necesary to the hon. Gentleman beside him before he spoke.
I shall not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down for making this a party and personal question; he has made a party and personal attack. To my mind this Debate and this question are especially interesting because they raise social questions of immense importance. The one striking thing about this Debate is the way in which this gentleman, Mr. Holmes, has been condemned on all hands. Now, who is Mr. Holmes? Mr. Holmes is a gentleman who has had a very distinguished Oxford career. He has been a double first. Not only is that so, but he is a constituent of the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford, who took part in this Debate. He is also a gentleman who has written volumes of poetry, and, more than that, he has shown his high character by writing several books on religion. It strikes me as possible that if anyone wished for a good example of the Oxford or Cambridge man Mr. Holmes affords it himself. I intervene in this Debate only to point out how very absurd it is to think that if a man is from Oxford, and moreover if he represents the Oxford University, he is entitled to any special consideration. On the other hand, I draw this conclusion from this Debate, that gentlemen who have high distinguished academic careers, and who come from Oxford with all the honour and glory of that university, should be held, if possible, at arm's length, and that at any rate we should be very slow in giving them any undue consideration when they rise to speak. I want to ask some questions of the President of the Board of Education. Fortunately, perhaps, for him, he has exhausted his right to speak by an early intervention in this Debate. The questions I am going to ask he can ponder over at his leisure, and if he does not answer them in this House, he can act upon them in his office. I want to know if he will take some measure to undo the evil effect of this circular, and show that it is not the policy of the Board. I hope he will circularise all the inspectors and the sub-inspectors, and let them know what his own opinion is, and how fully his opinion is endorsed by every portion of this House. I want the right hon. Gentleman also to promise that the inspectors and other officials will be more careful in future as to what they write and print at the public expense. This applies not only to the Board of Education, but to all the right hon. Gentlemen and the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the Treasury Bench. I want them all to be very careful as to what goes forth from their offices, especially those opinions sent possibly by some mere jack in office, which gain an authority and weight by being printed at the public expense which they ought not to have.In the next place, will the right hon. Gentleman endeavour to secure that high officials shall be really in sympathy with the policy of their chief. We have heard, and rightly heard, something about loyalty between the chief of an office and his subordinates, but loyalty must be mutual; it must be on both sides, and if officials go about the country, and, in the course of their duties, use expressions which are at once repudiated by their chief, they ought not to be there, and they ought to be found some opportunity of serving their country elsewhere. In my opinion the policy of the Board of Education at the present time is not adequately represented by the officials and the public bodies throughout the land. Up to 1902, the administration of education in this land was more popular, more enlightened, and really more democratic—I am very glad the Leader of the Opposition is not here, as I am afraid by using the term "democratic" in this sense I should have injured his feelings. Up to 1902 the administration of education was democratic in this land, and since then it has become undemocratic, aristocratic and bureaucratic, and for this the Leader of the Opposition and his Edu- cation Act of 1902 are responsible. If we want to have education carried out in the spirit of this House and the people, we must get, sooner or later, rid entirely of the evil effects of the Education Act of 1902.
I am not going to touch upon the education question, but there is another matter which I have had considerable experience of as the representative of a constituency which perhaps is more affected by it than any other constituency in London—I refer to Vote 4, Class 3, dealing with land registration. When this matter was first introduced in 1907 we were all anxious, and had been for many years, that the transfer of property in this country should be made as simple and cheap as was possible, and I believe the promoters of the Land Transfer Bill were not slow in putting that forward as a very strong argument for bringing it into active operation. We had in London the Land Registry of Middlesex, which had for its direct object the registration of deeds relating to land. In that case the registration fee was limited to the small sum of 5s. in every case, and the office was admitted on all hands to have served a very useful purpose, and was itself run at considerable profit to the community. But the Land Transfer Act went a little beyond that, and instead of laying down that the deeds relating to land should be registered, it laid down that the title to land should be registered in the new Land Registry Office. There is a great deal of difference in registering a deed and registering a title, and unless you are able to give a satisfactory title to the land sought to be registered, you put the purchaser in a very much worse condition than he would otherwise have been.That has turned out to be exactly what we foresaw would be the case if you made compulsory the registration of land in this country. No one would consider it otherwise than an extremely wild policy to attempt to make compulsory any system which was not beneficial. The promoters of this Bill recognised and admitted that the new registration of titles was to be considered only as an experiment, and was expressly limited to one part of the country to be selected without laying down which part should be selected. After a good deal of controversy the county of London was fixed upon as the county which should try this experiment first of all. Protests were raised in every direction, and the answer invariably given to those protests was that, after a short space of time, a Commission would be appointed to inquire into the whole working of the Act. The Act came into force on 1st January, 1899; a Royal Commission has only recently been appointed, and that Commission, after taking a good deal of evidence before it has reported; and although it was not referred to this Committee to say whether they considered land registration suitable or not for the needs of the country, they made sufficient reference to it to entitle it to give a judgment as to whether the system was a good one or not. These are the words of the Royal Commission, which has only recently reported. Talking about this question of extending compulsion to the registration of land titles, the Commission says:—
I am not surprised that this Commission has arrived at that decision, but I am surprised that the Government—who claim to be a businesslike and economic Government, and claim, above all things, that they are anxious that the transfer and acquisition of land should be made as cheap as possible—should bring before us Estimates involving a large expenditure of money when the object of this registration has been proved to be frustrated and is a failure. Unless you give an absolute title and register an absolute title your land registry practically fails. I do not know whether the Financial Secretary to the Treasury can tell us what proportion of the titles registered in this land registry are absolute. I know this is asking for a good deal of detailed information from an officer of the Crown who, I know, is very busy in other directions, and if he cannot give this information nobody will blame him for it, because I know it is impossible to get the details of all these various matters from the right hon. Gentleman opposite. If I may say so in passing, this shows the absurdity of asking the House of Commons to pass in one short day this enormous number of Votes on Account dealing with a hundred and one different subjects and totalling between £19,000,000 and £20,000,000. This does seem absurd, and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence with those responsible to endeavour to give us a longer time to go into these matters. There are some very important matters dealing with the Home Office to which I should like to call attention. Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted and forty Members being found present——"The system as it stands is, in our judgment, imperfect, and we cannot recommend the extension of an imperfect system."
I was calling attention in passing to some other important matter. Are hon. Members aware that under the Police Vote we are providing a sum of money for the maintenance of Colonial prisons. I believe there are very few hon. Gentlemen in this House who are aware of the fact that actually in these days, when we are all anxious that the various possessions of the Crown should manage all minor matters for themselves, we are spending a sum of money each year under these Votes on account for the purpose of what is described here as "the prisons of England and the Colonies." I will not go into that point further now, but come back to the failure of the Land Registry Office to carry out the purpose for which it was inaugurated.8.0 P.M. The Estimates we are asked to vote on account to-day include a sum of £2,000 for what is called the examination of absolute titles. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us some information on that head. The sum of £2,000 was put aside this year and last year for the examination of absolute titles. What is meant by that? I suppose all titles are examined for the purpose of making them as complete as possible, and in order to make them complete they must be absolute. If my information is correct, the proportion of titles registered as absolute is ridiculous—something like one or two per cent. of the total titles that come up for registration. The officers responsible for saying whether a title is absolute or not are naturally cautious. Lawyers are anxious they should not be caught napping in declaring the title absolute. If a man's title, which he is compelled to bring before the Registration Office, is not registered as absolute, he is put in a very difficult position as regards his property. The matter, if arranged between lawyers acting on either side, could be got over under ordinary circumstances, but there are hundreds and thousands of sales of property which have been held up simply because they could not get satisfactory titles given them under this Land Transfer Act. The expense involved in trying to get a title registered under this Act is vastly greater in all cases than it would be if it went through its ordinary course. The consequence is that purchasers of property in London to-day are in a far worse position than the purchasers of property outside the county of London. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he considers it worth while going on with this huge expense for an office which is clearly short of what is required, which is inflicting a great hardship on those who have to come before it, and which is restricting the very thing which you thought you were going to improve, namely, the easy, rapid, and cheap transfer of property from one person to another. Under the Act the whole of the Middlesex Registration Office was transferred to the New Land Registration Office. Under the Middlesex system there was a 5s. registration fee, and that was estimated to produce something like £15,000 a year. I should like to know whether the estimated net revenue from the Land Registration of Middlesex is included in the amount of the estimated receipts, land registry, stamps, fees, etc., for the year 1911–12, £54,000, as against £56,000 last year. If it does not, it is obvious the dwindling receipts coming to this office would be much greater if the source from which the revenue was drawn was truly shown. The registration of deeds is simple enough, and, worked well, is a very simple and cheap method of transferring property, but the new system has proved, according to the Royal Commission, to have been an imperfect system, and is one the continuance of which they could not advocate. You are, however, taking further steps to continue it. I speak from the point of view of one representing a constituency in London. There are resident in London a great many lawyers who feel very strongly on this subject, and they have asked me to lay before the right hon. Gentleman some of the objections they have to the continuance of the system. There is, however, a broader question. The taxpayers of London, in addition to paying their taxes and to having further obstacles thrown in their way in the management of property, have thrown upon them the huge expense of keeping this Registration Office going, and they ask that there should be some recognition of their protest. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he cannot take some steps to carry out what the Act suggested would be the right course to follow in the event of the Act proving a failure. There is a special provision in the Act that in the event of the experiment proving a failure, the Privy Council should have the right at any time of revoking and putting an end to it. The mere fact that it has not been tried in counties outside London is a pretty sure sign that it has not come up to the expectation of the promoters of the Bill. Although it is in the power of the Government of the day, acting through the Lord Chancellor, to make other counties follow suit, the experiment in London has been such a failure that the Lord Chancellor or the Government, or whoever has the matter in hand, has not attempted to throw it on to other counties. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay some attention to this urgent matter and see whether he cannot adopt some easier method of the transfer of land in the county of London than that involved under the Bill. Land and law at all times seem to me extremely dull subjects, and I am not surprised hon. Members have left the House, but I should have thought that where it was a question of simplifying and easing matters for those who wish to acquire property they would have given me a little more support. I have other matters I could go into, but there are other Members anxious to get a word in to-day, and I will therefore leave questions affecting the Home Office till another day, when I believe the Government will give us facilities.
The question raised by the hon. Member for Holborn is one of great interest to a large number of persons who do not exactly take up the position he has taken up in connection with land registration. I do not think there will be much difference of opinion among those who have followed the working of the Act of 1897 with regard to the way in which it is now carried out in Lincoln's Inn Fields. I entirely agree that the fees are far too high, and that the system does not meet as at present worked the ideal which has always been set before the country by all persons who have advocated a proper system of registration of title. I therefore hope the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will give some attention to the present system, and see whether or how soon the Government can do something on the lines of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The report of that Commission has only been in our hands a few days, and it would have facilitated the investigations of those who study the question if their summary of recommendations had been much less. They extend to no less than about thirty-two paragraphs, and it is not easy to grasp them, but, so far as I understand the recommendation of the Commission it is that a much more simple system, a much cheaper system, and, above all things, a system which tends at once or as speedily as possible to give absolute title, should be brought into vogue. I quite agree that without absolute title the whole system of registration of title is of little value, and, as we are voting this money year after year in connection with this office, I do think the Government should take an early opportunity of dealing with the Report of the Royal Commission. I think I shall be able to show on some future occasion when the report has been discussed more fully the reasons why some other parts of the country do not follow the lead of London, who were the first to put themselves under the Act of 1897.I hope some legislation necessary for the proper carrying out of a system of land transfer, as recommended by the Royal Commission, will be taken up by the Government. I notice one of the first suggestions is the compulsory enfranchisement of copyhold. A friend of mine in Norfolk has just brought to my attention the difficulty in which he is placed and the expense to which he is put in taking up some four acres of copyhold. If you go to Cambridgeshire you will find a vast amount of copyhold. It causes a great amount of expense and trouble to those who have to deal with land, and the Royal Commission in their recommendations put that down as one of the first things which ought to be carried out. Something like three Acts of Parliament have been passed for the enfranchisement of copyhold. They have failed in many eases because of the attempt of some persons interested to get large compensation for the giving up of an office which is comparatively valueless. I am glad this Royal Commission has put in such a foremost position the question of the compulsory enfranchisement of copyhold, and I hope the Government will be able to give that, among other recommendations, early attention.
I should like to ask a few questions in order to try and get a little information on the Board of Agriculture Vote. I have been struck of late with the shortness, the brevity, and the inadequacy of the answers which have been given to questions addressed to the Board of Agriculture. We have this afternoon heard a good deal about a certain pamphlet which was issued without the knowledge of the head of the Department, but the pamphlets and circulars of the Board of Agriculture come out so late that they are practically not worth the paper on which they are printed. I should like to give an instance. Agriculturists are very desirous of gathering information regarding experiments at the earliest possible date. Last year and the year before a good many different diseases broke out amongst plants, including potatoes, and it was of the greatest importance that we should know all about them at the earliest possible opportunity. But the Board of Agriculture thought fit only last month to supply us with the information—practically speaking twenty-three months later. In the Annual Report of the Intelligence Division, Part II., you will find that the report covers the ground from 1st April 1909, to 31st March, 1910. You would think that after 31st April, 1910, you would have the details given to the country, seeing that those details have been collected by experts who are supposed to be the very best the Board of Agriculture can secure. As a matter of fact, the details were not presented to this House until 9th February, 1911.I put a question to the Board of Agriculture, which I regret to see is not represented in this House this evening, and which, I often notice, is not represented. It recalls to my mind the fact that when I first came into this House—the first time the Board of Agriculture Vote was discussed there were no hon. or right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Government Bench. I am glad to-night to have the privilege of addressing myself to two of them. I want to call attention to the question which I put to the hon. Gentleman who represents the Board of Agriculture. I asked him if he could give us any information as to why these reports were only published when they were eighteen months' old, and I had the marvellous reply that the report was signed on 28th October, 1910, but, owing to the dissolution of Parliament, its publication was delayed. I fail to see why the dissolution of Parliament, which took place at a much later date, should have prevented these reports being issued immediately after they were signed on 28th October, and I pressed for further information upon that subject. I asked why they should not have been printed and issued at the beginning of this Session, and the answer I got to that was that the Stationery Department thought it could not be done. It seems a curious thing it could not have been done in England, and we should thus have this belated information, whereas in Ireland it is done. When I turn to the Reports issued by the Irish Department I find that not only do they bring their information up to a much later date, but they take it up to 30th September, 1910, whereas our information stops on 31st March of that year. If they are able to issue at that date, why should not our Board do so also. That is the way we who are interested in the Board of Agriculture are continuously put off, and agriculture, which is the mainstay of our country, is placed in a retrograde position. The same thing applies to a great many of the other questions put in this House, and which we think are very badly answered. I will pass next to the question of sugar beet growing. There is an industry which one would have thought the Government of this country, with the knowledge they have obtained, would of their own initiative have decided to go to the trouble and expense of gaining fuller information regarding it, instead of leaving it to other people to do so. I asked the Secretary to the Board of Agriculture if he was going to carry out any experiments regarding sugar. He gave me a very evasive answer, and about three weeks afterwards I put a further question, and I inquired if he could carry out any experiments through the agricultural colleges to which the Board of Agriculture make annual grants. I got the extraordinary answer that the Board of Agriculture proposed to carry out some further experiments through the agency of the agricultural colleges. It took a very long lime to get even that piece of information, but up till the present time we have not been informed how these experiments are to be carried out by the agricultural colleges. I myself begin to think that the Board of Agriculture are only a Board in name, that they may be compared with men who only read and who do not understand the practical part of agriculture. They do not know that they must move now, and that the spring is coming. They do not know that unless they move at once the whole of these experiments cannot be carried out. I suppose that they are not aware it is time that the land was prepared and the seed sown. They do not know it may be very difficult to get the seed; they do not know that if you cannot get the seed and if the land is not prepared for these experiments it will be of no use attempting to make them this year. Again, I must compare the Irish Board with the English Board of Agriculture. There you find that not only are they thinking of doing it this year, but that they tried these experiments last year. I am told that the Board of Agriculture have not got a particular Vote for this particular object, but that, at any rate, seems not to stand in the way of preventing the Irish Board of Agriculture carrying out similar experiments. I put a question to the Department on 9th March this year, and was told in reply that the Irish Board had made experiments in the cultivation of sugar beet, but that they had no-special funds for the purpose. If they have no special funds for the purpose they have been, at any rate, able to carry out experiments which the English Board of Agriculture has failed to carry out. Here we are in England again being left behind with the Board of Agriculture of our own country standing still while the sister island passes us in the race for information. I could go on if time allowed and give a great many instances of the way in which we think this Department is allowed to run itself out and to be of no interest either to itself or anybody else. I do not know whether I shall have the pleasure of an answer to any of these questions that I am putting across the House, but I should like to call the attention of the House to the extraordinary manner in which all these things are done in other countries. It was only last year we were trying to get information as to what was done in Prussia regarding the agricultural question and in "The Journal of the Board of Agriculture" for December, 1910, we had given us a lot of figures regarding what was done in that country. The very last paragraph, which is of course the kernel of the whole thing, gives an imposing figure of over two millions of money which was devoted to agriculture itself. Under the Vote to-day £60,000 will be voted, and that is part of £194,000 which will be the total amount. A large part of that money is devoted to the great fishery question, and if you study the figures of the Board of Agriculture you will find you are totally unable to make out how much belongs to one department and how much belongs to the other. For the sake of argument, supposing we take two-thirds for agriculture, how does that compare with the £2,272,202 which is given in the Kingdom of Prussia alone. I think, though in this House we can only in many cases move to alter the figures by a Motion for the reduction of the Vote, that perhaps the agriculturists here ought to move a reduction simply for the purpose of calling the attention of the Government to the total inadequacy of this Vote for carrying on the agriculture of the country. There is one more thing that I do want to press on the Board of Agriculture and that is regarding the scourge of Foot-and-Mouth disease which has broken out of late. At this moment we are at the time of the year when the great sales of pedigree stock for transportation to foreign countries are taking place. It is well known that those foreign countries must come back to this country to keep up and maintain their flocks and herds in the high order in which they wish to have them. In order to do that they must come here, and when we get outbreaks of disease of this sort there is immediately a quarantine made for six months which prevents our cattle from going to those countries. The consequence is that at the sales of pedigree stock in this country the price that the breeders ought to get is not made during the time that this scourge is with us. Therefore, I think it behoves the Government of this country, and especially the Board of Agriculture, to use every atom of science and even money and labour of every description to find out from whence this disease comes, and what we ought to do in order to keep it out of this country. I was informed by the Board of Agriculture the other day in regard to the last outbreak that occurred in this country it was not known from whence the disease came, and it is well known that up to now in regard to the outbreak that has only just occurred the officials of the Board of Agriculture are totally unable to trace the means by which it was brought into the particular part of the country where it occurred. Therefore, although we are told that everything is being done to try and find out where the disease originated, I must say for myself—and I know I am speaking for a large number of agriculturists—that we do not think that the Board of Agriculture realises the enormous amount of damage that is being done to the breeding herds and flocks of this country by outbreaks of this disease. If the Board of Agriculture had been alive to the facts I am perfectly certain that instead of asking for the pittance that they do ask for they would have gone forward and asked for an extra sum of money to be voted to enable them to discover the cause of this disease. I ask the right hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, on the opposite bench, that he will for once use his power to impress upon the Board of Agriculture the necessity for trying to get money out of him for this purpose. I trust the Gentleman who generally keeps money back from great public purposes will not object to money being given for this. I must apologise for keeping the House so long on these rather uninteresting points and questions, especially when, as I understand, the Board of Agriculture is unrepresented here to-night. I regret that the hon. Gentleman who represents it is, through ill-health, unable to be here, but I fail to see if that is so why there could not be a second string to the bow of the Board of Agriculture in this House, and why the President of that Board should be in another place.
Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Emmott)
That is not a question upon which the hon. Member is allowed to speak on this Resolution.
I am sorry, and I will at once bow to your ruling, but I hope the Board of Agriculture will wake up and not allow this country to be left behind in regard to agricultural advantages which are greatly needed.
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Hobhouse)
I wish to reply in a few words to the hon. Gentleman opposite who raised the question of the land registry. I have not had an opportunity in the course of the last two or three days of very carefully studying the Report of the Royal Commission. It is a most comprehensive and laborious work, and the Commission, under the chairmanship of Lord St. Aldwyn, has gone very thoroughly into the question, and made a variety of recommendations, all of which will receive the consideration of the Treasury. There is only one point upon which I would join issue with the hon. Gentleman, and that is that he rather suggested that the Report had condemned the policy of registration. I do not think that is so. What the Report says is that the present system is imperfect. It does not say a more perfect system could not be established, but it does say that if a better system could be found it ought to be extended.
Not the present system.
I agree, not the present system. It says the present system is unsatisfactory, but it does not condemn the principle. Far from that, it recommends the extension of the principle, though no doubt very possibly on rather different lines from those which obtained at the present moment. Then my hon. Friend asks me for certain facts. The receipts from the Land Registry are not dwindling. They have been down to a lower point in 1908, in which year the transactions were 29,000. In 1909 they were 30,000, and I understand, though I have not got the complete figures, there is a considerable increase in the year which is just finished, 1910, and there is a corresponding increase on receipts in the last two years. Therefore the check which was observed on Land Registry transactions and the receipts from them has been overcome, and there has been a development and an increase of business both as regards the receipts of money and actual transactions.
That is not so as regards the estimated receipts of this year. They are £2,000 down.
The estimated receipts now are down but in 1908 there was a reduction of fees in respect of absolute title, and that has reduced the receipts while it has extended the business. A cheaper absolute title can now be got than could be got formerly, and, of course, the extension of facilities for getting absolute titles has for the moment checked the receipts. The total receipts, which are not Appropriations-in-Aid, have in many years been in actual excess of the total cost of the whole establishment, and I understand in the present year, it is very likely that there will be also an actual surplus of receipts over total expenditure—a very satisfactory result from every point of view. I do not want to go into the question raised by the hon. Gentleman behind me who put the view that the fees were rather too high for the transactions. That may be so. I do not express any decision on that at the minute. It is one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and I do not want to prejudge the action of the Treasury, but it shall have my attention when we come to consider the whole thing. I would deprecate any criticism of the principle or of the exact method at present adopted.
The speech of the Financial Secretary leads me to make one comment. It is that many of us who have looked very carefully into this question of registration of title are quite convinced that you will never do any real good with registration until the registration of absolute title is really cheapened, and that can never be done until measures are taken to provide that so many years' registered possessory title shall give an absolute title. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me.
Yes, without pledging myself to details.
I hope, in the interests of cheapening and facilitating the transfer of land in the future, which all parties are agreed upon, that matter will be seriously considered as to whether absolute title cannot be obtained without the enormous difficulty which exists now, whether it is registered or whether it is not. I want to add a word or two to what the hon. Member (Mr. Stanier) said just now about the Board of Agriculture. I gather that the representatives of the War Office are turning their swords into ploughshares, and I am sure the Financial Secretary to the War Office will answer an agricultural question with great ability. I have been very much alarmed during the last few days by the very rapid increase in the area affected by the Isle of Wight bee disease. I do not suppose that the Secretary, of State, learned as he is himself on an infinite variety of subjects, could give a scientific dissertation on this. I ask the Financial Secretary what steps are being, or are going to be, taken to deal with this matter. He will probably agree that at present absolutely nothing is known about the disease, what causes it, what will prevent it, what the proper measures are that should be taken to prevent its spread, whether it is contagious or infectious, and, if infectious, whether it is infectious only through the mouth of the bee or by other methods. I cannot find that the Board of Agriculture are taking any really proper steps to deal with the matter. I am told that the reason why they are taking no present steps is that they have not sufficient powers, but have they asked for powers? I am not aware that the Board of Agriculture have asked for any drastic powers to deal with this disease at all, and until they ask for them they will go on saying they are not in a position to take any drastic steps, or even to conduct any investigations in the hope of producing some remedy for this scourge. They cannot look to foreign countries for assistance, because I believe we are unique in the possession of this disease, and that it does not exist abroad, otherwise I should have recommended research among the records of foreign countries where agricultural matters are much better attended to than they are here, and where any subject of interest to agriculture which crops up is at once investigated in the most thorough way possible, and the results are recorded, not twenty-three months after the evidence, but with the greatest possible despatch. I hope in considering these matters the Financial Secretary to the War Office will give his mind to the possibilities of our Board of Agriculture, following the example of the United States Bureau in their methods of disseminating information. I am certain it will be to the immense advantage of agriculture in this country, and indirectly to all the other industries which are concerned. I should like to refer, if it is in order, to the very interesting announcement that the right hon. Gentleman made the other night about the initiation of a new rifle.
That subject will not be in order.
I thought possibly, as the representatives of the War Office were coming down to look after Civil Service matters, I would take the opportunity of referring to something of a little more warlike nature to them.
Mr. C. BATHURST
I always regret that when agricultural topics come before this House, and when those interested in agricultural matters rise to speak the House is comparatively empty. I do not suppose that there is a country in the whole of Europe where there is less interest taken by politicians in agricultural matters. I wish to make a few observations on purely agricultural matters to this somewhat attenuated House. I should like first of all to endorse what has fallen from my hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire (Mr. Stanier) with regard to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. That is not a very serious disease, and it is one that can be cured, but it is quite the most virulently contagious or infectious of all the diseases that attack farm stock. One effect of such an outbreak as occurred last week in Surrey upon the trade in cattle is that owing to the inability of our Department of Agriculture to discover the cause of the disease a great feeling of insecurity for a long period is felt in almost every country in the world which has trade with this country in the matter of high-bred stock. I fail to understand why it is that our Board of Agriculture, inadequately equipped though it is, has been unable in the case of the Ripon outbreak which occurred in July last, and so far in the case of the outbreak in Surrey, to trace the cause of the disease. It is a particularly unfortunate feature of this outbreak in Surrey that the Board has not been able to trace the cause, seeing that we were on the eve, so far as one could anticipate, of better trade in pedigree cattle in this country than has ever been known to British agriculturists.During the last three months almost phenomenal prices were beng offered from the Argentine Republic, and also to some extent from the United States for the best shorthorn cattle. All their ports, very valuable to us, are now closed against us, and will be closed for some months unless the Board is able to announce to purchasing countries that they have discovered the cause, and are now in a position to prevent the expansion of the disease. I am aware that in March, 1908, there was an Order issued which restricted the importation of certain products from certain countries with the view to the prevention of the redevelopment of foot-and-mouth disease. But these products were limited to hay and straw coming from certain European countries. If hay and straw are the main means of carrying this disease, surely it is only right that the restriction should be placed upon all hay and straw coming from any country in which it is known that foot-and-mouth disease has existed in the recent past. There are certain countries which have been excluded from this Order, and I for one should like to see those countries included in order to make the Order comprehensive. Those countries are Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, and Belgium. But why is it only hay and straw which are subjected to this embargo? Surely there are other natural as well as artificial products brought to our farms which are just as likely to carry this insidious and highly contagious disease as hay and straw. For instance, there is a very large quantity of foreign meal, foreign feeding cake, foreign grain, and foreign timber coming to this country, any one of which may be the source of this contagion and which ought to be subjected to the scrutiny of the Board's officials in order to see whether or not they may prove to be the source of the recent outbreak. As regards grain, I want particularly to refer to oats coming from Russia. There is a large and increasing amount of oats sold in this country which is grown in Russia. Very little precaution is taken on the part of the Russian administration with regard to foot-and-mouth disease. Though it is known to exist in many parts of Russia, the Government of that country does not seem to trouble very much about it. Bearing in mind the large amount of Russian grain, and particularly Russian oats, coming to this country, surely in the interest not only of the producers of cattle, but also ultimately of the consumers of British-fed beef, it is desirable to put some restriction upon the importation of Russian oats. I want to turn now to the Report of the Departmental Committee appointed to consider the subject of swine fever. I should like to ask the Chairman of that Committee, as well as the representative of the Board of Agriculture, when that somewhat belated Report is going to be issued? It deals with a very important matter which has provoked a good deal of interest and anxiety, particularly among small pig breeders in this country. It seems almost impossible to discuss the Board of Agriculture Vote, as we shall have to do in the course of a few weeks, without having the report of this Committee before us. I should like to know whether it is going to be issued soon, or to be indefinitely postponed, and whether it is likely to be before the House when we are discussing the Board of Agriculture Vote. I should like to know also what the Board of Agriculture is doing with regard to the Development Fund. Two years ago with a great flourish of trumpets the Development and Road Improvement Funds Act was passed, and it was anticipated that as the result of that Act there would be a very large sum of money available every year for the development of agricultural industry. In the first section of that Act certain purposes to which portions of the fund were to be applied were definitely specified.
They were not only agricultural purposes.
Mr. C. BATHURST
Well, they were mainly agricultural. The chief purpose of the provision of that fund was to develop agricultural industry in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, perhaps hon. Members below the Gangway will be able to tell us presently what was the main purpose of the passing of that Act. I have been told during the past few months that one of the purposes was to turn on a large number of uninstructed men from the towns to carry on the industry of afforestation to which they had never been brought up, in which they had no instruction whatever, and by which they were not calculated, in my opinion, to do as great advantage to themselves or to the community at large, as those who are brought up to that particular walk of life. However that may be, I still say that the main purpose of the Act was to provide a fund for the development of agriculture.
No money is taken in this Vote on account for the Development Fund. Therefore the allocation of the fund is not in question, and cannot be raised now.
Mr. C. BATHURST
I speak subject to correction, but is not it a fact that we are taking Clause 7 as well as Clause 2, and under Clause 7 there appears Development Fund, £400,000?
Four hundred thousand pounds is the sum taken for last year. There is no money taken in this Vote on account for this year.
Mr. C. BATHURST
Is it open to me to raise the question why no money is taken this year?
Mr. C. BATHURST
Then I will, with your approval, restrict my remarks to the attitude of the Board of Agriculture in relation to this matter. The Board of Agriculture has submitted during the last few weeks to the House the question how best to allocate a sum of £40,000 which has been ear-marked for light-horse breeding in this country. Light-horse breeding does not appear as one of the specified purposes to which this fund is to be applied in Section 1 of the Development and Road Improvement Act. I am not going to suggest that light-horse breeding is not a very proper purpose to devote part of this fund to, but I do suggest that there are other purposes at least equally important, and some of those purposes specifically referred to in the Act——
That involves the administration of the fund. There is no money taken for the fund in these Estimates. The hon. Member must reserve those observations for another occasion.
Mr. C. BATHURST
I would like to submit to you whether it is not open to me to discuss the question of light-horse breeding which is now under the control of the Board of Agriculture in consequence of the allocation of this £40,000 Grant.
The hon. Member can discuss light-horse breeding, but he cannot discuss the allocation of the money by the Development Commissioners.
Mr. C. BATHURST
What I would like with your approval to do is to submit to the House that the Board of Agriculture is not showing wisdom in the way it has exercised its discretion in the matter of advising the Development Commissioners as to what purposes they ought to apply this fund——
That cannot be raised now, because no money is being taken for the purpose of the Development Fund in these Estimates.
Mr. C. BATHURST
Then I shall just confine myself with great reluctance to the subject of this £40,000 grant, but I shall do so with all the more confidence in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Haldane) sitting opposite. What I would like to ask the Government is, is it intended by means of this £40,000 grant to supply a national want as regards the shortage of horses for military purposes, or is it intended to benefit the tenant farmers and other horse-breeders in this country? I see that the right hon. Gentleman nods assent to the latter suggestion. In what way is this grant of £40,000 going to benefit to any large extent the tenant farmers of this country, as distinct from the breeders of thoroughbred horses and high-class hunters, which are very largely in the hands of wealthy men who do not depend for a living upon agricultural industry? What is open to me to ask is: Are the Government desirous of seeing a certain type of horse produced as the result of the allocation of £40,000 out of the Development Fund for this purpose? Because, if they are doing so, it is only fair to the occupiers of agricultural land that they should know definitely what the Government want. Then there will be an opportunity for them to produce what is wanted. I am given to understand that the most useful horse for national requirements, for the purpose at any rate of our Army during the South African War, was the horse that was best represented by the London 'bus horse, a horse that was quite scarce enough during the South African War, but is now getting scarcer every day owing to the increase of motor traction. Where are they going to find that horse in the future? If they cannot find that horse and want that horse surely they ought to set themselves to the problem of how best to produce that horse. Starting from that basis surely it would be possible by finding out how to produce that particular horse to put a premium upon agricultural industry, upon the production of that horse by the tenant farmers of this country.I do not profess myself to know how that horse is produced, but I am quite certain it is not to be produced by a thoroughbred stallion out of a high-class hunter mare. Yet that is the horse which I believe the country wants and wants more than ever it wanted before. I would like to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Mr. Acland) who, I know, has a burning interest in this matter as well as considerable knowledge of the subject, whether it would not be possible to apply a portion at any rate of this somewhat considerable fund in doing a real benefit to the tenant farmer and small holder in this country by enabling him to produce a horse for which there is a national demand and which he is perfectly able himself to produce as long as he is told what is wanted and how much will be paid for it. There is no information as to the Government price, as I understand, to indicate what is to be given for a horse at three years old when it has been produced by putting a certain stallion of a possibly wrong type to a certain mare which, in my opinion, may be also of a wrong type. But, at any rate, a certain horse has got to be produced, and is not going to be produced in sufficent numbers unless first of all you say what the type of the horse is to be and the price you are going to give for it at three years old. I am inclined to think if you want the farmer to retain these horses on the land for the benefit of the Government, the Government will have to take over the whole risk by insurance, or otherwise, of maintaining those horses until such time as they are required by the Government. I feel in somewhat of a difficulty about bringing, as I should like to bring, many agricultural topics before this House in the absence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture (Sir E. Strachey). I am very sorry, indeed, that he has been prevented by ill-health from attending the sittings of this House in the recent past. And I am particularly sorry that it is owing to a similar cause I understand he is unable to be here this evening.
Lord NINIAN CRICHTON-STUART
The question of agriculture has become almost exclusively in these Debates one of English agriculture. For that reason I rise to address the House, because I think that the condition of Scottish agriculture ought to be brought before the notice of the House. We have been talking on the question of light-horse breeding and heavy-horse breeding. We have in Scotland an enormous interest in the whole of that matter. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would take into consideration a few words of mine on the subject of heavy-horse breeding as well as light-horse breeding, because, as my hon. Friend (Mr. C. Bathurst) has just said, the horse most wanted in the late South African War was of the class of the omnibus horse. It is in the breeding of that heavy class of horses that farmers in Scotland are most interested. It is to that class they devote most of their time, and, as their circumstances permit, they breed those heavy horses to a greater extent than any other. It is a matter of the greatest interest to us in Scotland that the question should be thoroughly discussed and understood, and that we should not be tied down to the Remount Department, which requires an entirely different class of horse for the Army. Though the Remount Department and the War Office authorities want this light class of horse, still they have work for which horses of the heavier breed would be very useful. Motor traction has not arrived at that extreme state of perfection when the motor can go everywhere a horse can go. For every kind of traction work the horses bred by the Scottish farmer are admirably adapted and they would be especially useful for gun and transport work. Clydesdale horses are unquestionably the finest possible for such work, and I draw attention more especially to them because the farmers of Scotland are particularly concerned in breeding them. It would be impossible for me to-night to discuss the whole subject of a Board of Agriculture for Scotland, but in "The Scotsman" of yesterday there appeared a letter from the Secretary of the Chamber of Agriculture in Scotland to the Board of Agriculture in London, asking whether agriculturists in Scotland were to continue to apply to the Scottish Office for grants of money and so forth, or in regard to the disease of anthrax, or anything else connected with agriculture. The Scottish agricultural industry want to have a Board of Agriculture to which they can apply as directly as farmers in this country can apply to the Board of Agriculture here. Why cannot the whole question of money for agricultural purposes be governed in Scotland by a separate Board for that country? That is a question so great in itself that it must be left to another time to discuss.
I do not see on what Vote this question arises, but I think it would involve legislation, so therefore it is out of order.
Lord N. CRICHTON-STUART
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I will not continue on that subject. There is a question of immense value and importance to Scottish agriculturists, and that is the importation of food stuffs and their examination on import. Foot-and-mouth disease has been mentioned as one of the diseases which is due to contagion in imported food stuffs, but anthrax is a disease which is far more dangerous not only because of the way in which it affects cattle, but because it is also dangerous to the men who look after the cattle. In some parts of Scotland we, unfortunately, have had a good many cases of that disease, and there have been instances where men have died in a few hours from having caught contagion from diseased cattle. It is not purely and simply a question affecting agriculture, but it is one which must be approached from the humane point of view, the interests of those engaged in the industry. The whole subject requires very careful investigation, and I submit that money should be found sooner or later, and the sooner the better, to investigate it in its entirety, from its very beginning to its very end. Another subject in regard to which money could be expended most advantageously, one which has seldom been taken up from a practical point of view, simply because of want of money—I refer to the question of the unexhausted value of manures. In these days manures have become almost entirely artificial, and so scientific has become their use, in varying climatic conditions and otherwise, that we have arrived at the result—which is to the benefit of the population of the country—of manuring, not a larger area, but of producing a greater weight of crop to the area.On such a use of manures arises the very important question of compensation for unexhausted manures. The table of manures given by Messrs. Volker and Hall is used, but all are not entirely agreed on the point either in Scotland or in England. There are other tables issued by certain agricultural societies in Scotland, and these are amalgamated with Messrs. Volker and Hall's table of agricultural manures and with others. But, as I said, in reference to investigation, it is money that is needed to help the agricultural population of Scotland. It is money which is wanted to help everybody directly or indirectly interested in one of the greatest industries that we have in either England, Scotland or Ireland. On the question of the agricultural value of land there arises also the question of agricultural loss on the crops grown on the land. In a certain part of Scotland last year there was a very bad epidemic of potato scab, and I have known instances where a crop has been lost for the simple reason that the fanners were unable to obtain at a reasonable price sufficient lime for their fields in order that the scab might be counteracted and that the indirect reason of the disease, "finger and toe" in the white crop, might be dealt with. If the Development Commission could only see its way to spending some of its money in establishing a depot in order to assist those farmers whose crops suffer from such a disease, it would be spending money in a way that would benefit everyone concerned in agriculture. I can only add to what my hon. Friend said already, how sorry I am that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Board of Agriculture is not able to be here to-night. I do submit that this question is worthy of the greatest possible consideration, and is one of which many Members who have quietly interrupted are entirely devoid of any knowledge and entirely devoid of any experience of those who subsist on the land to which we belong.
Mr. ERNEST JARDINE
May I echo the sympathy that has been expressed on this side over the absence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. The two subjects which I wish to bring forward are questions which I put to the hon. Gentleman and on which I had hoped to be able to get a reply, because at the busy Question Time, when I have had the honour of addressing the questions, I have not yet had the pleasure of hearing his replies. I have, however, some encouragement in seeing the Secretary of State for War in his place, because, although speaking upon agriculture, I feel that I shall have his sympathy. My object is to plead for greater efficiency by the Board of Agriculture, and to urge upon the Board and on the Government generally that the miserable sum of £194,000 that is to be devoted to this purpose is absolutely inadequate. That sum is even less than is voted in some of the single States in the United States of America. The Secretary of State for War knows that he depends mainly for his best recruits upon the country and upon the people who are bred on the land. I, therefore, am appealing to him, especially to use his influence to see that agriculture gets that attention and that serious thought that what is still our greatest industry deserves. There is no serious attempt to keep the people on the land. Agriculture to the labourer is to-day unattractive and unprofitable. He naturally gravitates towards the lights and pleasures and vices of the city, and he pushes out by his superior physique workers in the towns, and presses them, and must press them, into the permanent ranks of the unemployed. The only way to keep those people in the country is by looking after them; that is by the Board of Agriculture looking after them as they have never done in the past. I take one question alone, that of small holdings. The way to keep a man upon the land is to give him something of his own to work for, to hope for, to improve, to give what is the very best in him, because it is his own.
Break up the big estates.
Mr. E. JARDINE
Break up the big estates, I agree, and create a larger number of landowners than exist to-day. The present policy of the Board of Agriculture is to give no assistance whatever in that direction. Under this Small Holdings Act, which is administered or assisted or managed by the Board of Agriculture, as most Members in the House know, and I hope resent, the poor agricultural labourer, who is the worst paid man on earth, and necessarily because agriculture is unprofitable, gets his small holding from the county council, pays full interest, pays all the expenses of the officials, pays the cost of management or mismanagement, and, in addition to that, that man has to pay a sufficient sum to recoup or to pay back the principal and the total cost of the land. That worst paid man in the country is the only man who is so flagrantly robbed by an Act of Parliament passed by this House. That poor man, who has no reasonable chance in life, pays for the land and the county council grab it. I want the Secretary of State for War with that charming manner of his that persuades almost anybody to almost anything to use his influence with the Board of Agriculture to see that that state of affairs is remedied.One other point I desire to refer to, and that is the question of beet sugar. Money is being spent, or is to be spent, out of this miserable sum to foster or assist in the cultivation of experimental plots. I was speaking the other day to a man who is looked upon as one of the foremost experts in sugar beet growing, and his remark to me was, "You will never be able under your present system to grow or to make sugar in England; your agriculturists have much to learn; they will lose considerable sums of money in learning how to produce the best form of beet, and whoever sets up a factory will also lose money in paying for experience in learning a new business." I am pleading for further and heavier sums to be spent on fostering and helping agriculture, and in particular on this new industry which so many of us on both sides of the House wish to create. I ask the Department of Agriculture to go further than the mere experimental plots, and to take their courage in both hands and also experimentally make sugar. It is only by assisting in a much more generous manner our great industry, that you will succeed, Mr. Secretary of State for War, in obtaining your recruits, and in preserving a strong and healthy and courageous race.
I do not know whether I am to take it that the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War will be as an answer given by the responsible Minister for the Department about which I am now speaking, that is the Minister for Agriculture. I do not doubt that the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman of the subject is as wide as his or mine, but the right hon. Gentleman will naturally understand the desire of my hon. Friends around me to receive an answer from some responsible Minister of the Government on a question which undoubtedly is one of the most important that concerns the Nation at large, namely, agriculture. I presume we may take it for granted, from what the right hon. Gentleman said, if he said anything, that the reply will be indicative of the results of the Government's work. My hon. Friend who preceded me, has just alluded to the question of experiments in sugar-beet growing, and asking as to the amount of assistance we may expect from the Government in those experiments. To those experiments I would add the experiment of tobacco growing. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has tasted the tobacco grown by his supporters from Ireland. I have. I have survived the trial, and enjoyed it. The Irish have at all events proved that they can produce an article which is marketable and actually enjoyed by their colleagues in this House. The Government extended to them certain assistance, and I ask, on behalf of Essex first and of the rest of England afterwards, that we also should be assisted in our endeavours to grow tobacco. I do not say that we enjoy the advantages that Ireland does for the growth of tobacco, or that we possess the influence in the House exercised by hon. Members below the Gangway. At all events, agriculturists in all parts of the country are anxious to try experiments of every sort and kind. We see other nations where the industry of agriculture is fostered and heavily subsidised by the respective Governments. Success often attends their efforts, or, at all events, the result of that assistance is that they leave off making experiments in branches that are not successful, and direct their efforts to branches that are successful.We have made experiments in sugar-beet. I have always believed in the possibilities of the sugar-beet industry as an adjunct to the farming industry, but I have never believed that we could take it up as a separate branch of agriculture and pursue it with success, except, perhaps, where the particular locality was adjacent to a factory, to water, and to railway facilities. There are many places, however, where the climate and the soil are the same as in places abroad where beet-sugar has been successfully grown, and experiments might very well be made. In the farming industry we cannot spend a large amount of money on what are purely experiments. We are not so rich nor so undertaxed that we can afford to devote what money we have left in our pockets to purely experimental stations. We are ready to devote time, to extend compassion, and to help in many ways which are not expensive, but we are unable to spend large sums on experimental stations. One of my hon. Friends spoke about breaking up large estates, and his remark was cheered by hon. Members opposite. I have never been the owner of a large estate. I am the owner of a small one. I have always been trying to break it up, but I have never succeeded in getting men to take farms at what I consider to be a reasonable and fair value. It is to the men with small holdings I think we can look for the success of future experimental work. They desire, and I think very fairly, a certain amount of assistance from the State. I am told that it is economically unsound, but there are many uneconomically unsound things which are looked upon as practicable in these days. We ask for more than a "Saturday to Monday" experiment. We want a fair area of ground devoted to these purposes. You can grow many things on small plots and point to them with great pride as being successful. I remember a colleague of mine telling me that he had grown an enormous amount of oats to the acre, but I found on pressing him that he had done it in his back garden. I am unable to grow over a certain amount of oats or corn on a big area, and I submit that no one small plot will be sufficient to prove the absolute success of an experiment in either tobacco-growing or beet-sugar. We ask what are the Government prepared to do to assist us in this matter? Every adjunct to agriculture of this kind is of the greatest possible use. Every farmer in the Kingdom is looking for some means of increasing his legitimate profits. Taxation is heavy on the farmer, and we are unable to see where the road grant is going to assist him. In fact, I saw an instance to-day where the road grant had to be supplemented by the rates of the county. That is hardly a help. We look for help from the advance of science. Farming to-day is largely scientific, and we must depend a great deal on science for the advance of agriculture. I do not think it is unfair to ask for assistance from the Government, seeing that if by pursuing any given policy or for any reason whatever England were deprived of her supplies, agriculture would be the greatest industry she possesses. I acknowledge that very great strides have been made in the last ten or twenty years, and I confidently appeal to the present Government to show how anxious they are for the advancement of the working classes. I know that the landlord is capable of every atrocity under the sun, but he does, at all events when he can, pay wages to those who work for them. It is not unfair to ask that the possibility of paying those wages, and even better wages, may be increased by some benevolence on the part of the Government in the way of experimental stations, not plots, and experimental work in connection with tobacco and sugar beet.
The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the WAR OFFICE (Mr. Acland)
I must throw myself on the mercy of the House, having been disturbed in the middle of my dinner, and at five minutes' notice asked to represent the Board of Agriculture this evening. I know nothing of agriculture from the official point of view. I know a little about it from the private personal point of view only. I have been glad to hear the references to the cause of the absence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture. He would have been present had he not been absolutely prevented by stringent doctor's orders from attending at this hour of our sitting. I have to attempt to reply, and I am afraid that it will be little more than attempt, to the several speeches which have been made.The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Shropshire complained of the non-appearance of a report, and contrasted the methods of the Board of Agriculture in Ireland with those of the Board in England in regard to the punctuality of the issue of their report. I can only say that I will have the delay looked into at once, and will let the hon. Gentleman know as soon as I can why the report has been delayed. It is quite obvious that, if reports are not issued fairly punctually they very much lose their interest and value. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the experiments which are being made in the cultivation of beet sugar. I think he would have gathered very largely a reply to the questions that he asked if he had listened to the speech which has just been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman (the Member for Essex (Colonel Lockwood). I think the speech which we have just heard does answer many of the questions raised in regard to the growing of beet. It is not, it would appear, possible to get beyond a certain stage by any use of experimental plots, farm stations, or any institutions which are conducted by our universities or county councils. They can only tell you whether the soil is suitable, and what methods of cultivation are most suitable. They cannot tell—and nothing on any scale which we have hitherto done in England can tell you—whether the cultivation of a certain plant will or will not be a commercially profitable undertaking. I have knowledge of what has been done in the hon. Member's own county of Essex, with its extremely valuable work in research, investigation, and inquiries, done by the Technical Education Committee of the Essex County Council, who have been most generous in putting at the disposal of everyone who is concerned the information which they have collected from foreign countries or this country. But I think they would strictly draw the line at matters of scentific investigation, research, and experiment. They would not regard it as part of their duty to say whether a certain new industry, or part of a new industry, was or was not likely to be commercially profitable. That, I think is, and I fear possibly will continue to be, the view of the Board of Agriculture. All we can do is to encourage experiments and research. When it comes to determining what the cultivation of a certain plant on a commercial scale is likely to be—well, they cannot really satisfactorily investigate that question. It must, as the hon. Gentleman observed, very much depend on the neighbourhood in which the crop is grown, the nearness of the factory to a water supply or a railway. Even, it seems to me, if the Board of Agriculture were to take an estate and to cultivate beet, from a commercial point of view, the results which they and the Government Department would obtain might not even at the end be of very great use to persons who desire to grow that crop as a commercial undertaking. The hon. Gentleman the Member for North Shropshire also raised a question which has been mentioned by several hon. Members to-night as to the smallness of the sum of money which is devoted at the present time to agricultural experiments and research under the Board of Agriculture. Nobody can regret the smallness of that amount more than I do. I think, and I have always thought, that that was one of the most promising and profitable ways of attracting people to take an interest in the land, back to the land, and to make their livelihood on the land. I hope that in the years to come, through the Development Grant or otherwise, not only the amount spent on agricultural experiment and research, but the availability of the actual experiment to farmers will be greater. The difficulty always is not so much getting useful research and experiment undertaken, as getting farmers to learn and to profit by that experiment and research when it is undertaken. When it is a question of going twenty, thirty, or forty miles, as it often is at the present time, farmers not unnaturally say that what they can see at that distance is not necessarily of any value to them, and that what they want to know is what really it is profitable to do and to put into their own soil in the climate they themselves are accustomed to. Therefore, I hope that one of the developments we may expect in the next few years is the multiplication of experimental stations, so that they will be really available for farmers in the districts to which they are accustomed.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he would state the views of the Government on the remission of the Sugar Duty?
I have been asked to represent the Government at such a short notice that I am afraid I would rather not deal with that question if I may be excused. As to what the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Shropshire said in regard to the question of foot-and-mouth disease, I was glad that he and other hon. Members recognised this fact that our breeders of stock in England have a perfect right to look to foreign purchasers as supplying part of the best market that they can here. Some weeks ago, when we were discussing the question of horses, it was suggested by many Members of this House that breeders of horses ought to be prohibited from parting with their horses to foreign countries. That has not been suggested to-night with regard to stock. I think it would be a handicap, as has been pointed out, if the export of that stock were prohibited, because the very best market in the Argentine and so on would very often be withdrawn in that way. It is quite true, as was said, that the cause of the recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease is at present not known. It is, moreover, true that the cause of the out-break discussed in this House in March, 1908, is unknown.
Mr. C. BATHURST
The cause of the outbreak in March, 1908, with all deference to the hon. Gentleman, was known. It was traced to hay and straw. The cause of the Edinburgh outbreak and the last outbreak at Ripon six or eight months ago is not known.
I think I am none the less correct that no perfectly definite conclusion with regard to the 1908 outbreak is known. No doubt it was believed that it had been successfully traced to hay or straw imported into the country. In that and other cases, and there may be in this present case—although this is a very recent outbreak—it may still be possible to find out the definite cause. I think it is very difficult in the absence of information to take the very severe steps which have been suggested. No doubt it would be a good thing to say definitely that the cause had been traced to a certain article. By destroying that article or prohibiting its use or import we should be getting ourselves a clean bill of health from the point of view of other countries sooner than by saying that we could not detect what is the cause of the outbreak. But without very definite information and knowledge that is an extremely difficult thing to do, and I would suggest that it is particularly difficult to have universal inspection of all the different things which may possibly have been infected—grain, meal, cake, timber, and so on, and go into the area in which the outbreak has taken place. That would need a small army of inspectors. Then if you had that small army of inspectors I know no means in which with all these commodities you can with any certainty describe whether they may possibly be infected with the germs that cause this foot-and-mouth disease. I want now to say a word about bee disease. The question was raised by the hon. Member for the Rye Division of Sussex (Mr. Courthope). As we know, it has been imposible hitherto to discover the cause of that disease. I have been looking into the causes of diseases and their cures, as generally recognised, and it seems to me that the cure for all modern diseases is either inoculation of one sort or another, or the removal of the appendix; but though my knowledge of the matter is very small, I think that inoculation or removal of the appendix would be a very difficult operation in the case of bees, and I am informed that neither of these operations can be performed with any great prospects of eradicating the disease. An hon. Member opposite referred to the delay in the publication of the report with regard to swine fever. Upon that I have definite information from the chairman of the committee that investigated this matter. The report is now so far advanced that it will be presented very soon after the Easter Recess, and I am informed that the delay was almost entirely due to the fact that the hon. Member delayed nearly two months in returning the corrected proofs of his evidence to the chairman of the committee.
Mr. C. BATHURST
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it was entirely due to the fact that the Government thought fit to have a second General Election in ten months.
No doubt if the hon. Gentleman presents that view to the chairman of the committee it will be accepted as a sufficient explanation of the delay of the report. Another point raised was with regard to the danger of a shortage of the supply of 'bus horses for the Army. It is, of course, a fact that the 'bus horse is a very useful and indispensable kind of horse for the Army on mobilisation. It is clear, therefore, that the Army must be certain that unless and until mechanical transport is developed so as to dispense with this type of horse the Army will have to see to it that a sufficient supply of these horses is forthcoming, and, although I do not represent the Board of Agriculture and do represent the War Office. I have to say that if the War Office require to purchase a supply of these horses, and if it finds the supply is insufficient it ought to encourage their production from the Estimates of the War Office and not from the Estimates of the Board of Agriculture. It may in future. I do not say it will, cause an increase of the War Office Estimates, but if there is an increase I believe it ought to come as a charge upon what we want for the War Office if they want these horses, and not to try to disguise what we want for War Office purposes under the shadow of a grant made by the Development Commissioners.The only other point raised was that raised by the hon. Member for Somersetshire, with regard to small holdings. It is no doubt a fact that the small holder has to pay heavily in rent and otherwise for a small holding. Yet the demand for these small holdings continues, and far exceeds any possibility of supply. I cannot help thinking that if the county councils would press on in every way they could supply an adequate number of small holdings to those who ask for them. That is the first matter of great importance when those who want the holdings and are perfectly willing to take the holdings, even with all the financial disability which the hon. Member alleges have been provided with holdings, it will be time enough to consider whether the terms they have to pay are so enormous that some reduction or alleviation ought to be made. While the main question is the adequate supply of holdings and while there are many thousands of people only too anxious to get holdings Under the terms of the Act the great question must be the supply of those holdings. I have only now to apologise to the House for having detained it so long.
The House will congratulate the hon. Member upon the exceedingly admirable speech he has made as representing the Board of Agriculture at such short notice. We also regret very much the absence of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Board of Agriculture (Sir E. Strachey), and we hope he will very soon be back again to take his place in this House. I regret his absence because I wanted to raise a question with reference to the Board of Agriculture of very considerable importance, namely, the fruit industry. Some years ago I was appointed by the President of the Board of Agriculture at the time being, Chairman of a Departmental Committee, to inquire into the position of the fruit industry and to see what steps could be taken to improve it. We sat for two years. We examined about forty or fifty witnesses and we asked I do not know how many thousand questions. We arrived at the unanimous report containing no less than forty recommendations. What happened? The Unionist Government of that day went out of power and another Government came in. Our report was pigeon-holed, and never heard of any more. I venture to think the importance of the fruit industry is such that it ought to receive better treatment. There is no industry in agriculture that employs more men than the cultivation of fruit. Possibly hop-growing employs as much at times, but the average wages on a fruit farm is £25 per acre. Compare that with ordinary farming. On grass land the amount is about a few shillings per acre, and on ordinary agricultural laud a few pounds. The fruit industry is one that employs an enormous amount of labour, not only all the year round, but, in the picking season especially. A great many people come out from towns and from such districts such as I represent in the black country and earn a fair amount of money. We made, as I say, no less than forty recommendations, the principal one of which was that the Board of Agriculture should establish a special separate Department to inquire into the conditions of fruit growing with an experimental fruit farm. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said the Government are anxious to do more in the way of experimental research. A great deal could be done in the way of experimental research in fruit growing. It is most important to know the right sort of fruit to grow, the right moment for spraying, and to know how to cope with the moth and other insects that destroy fruit.There is an enormous amount of highly scientific knowledge which might be gathered and imparted which might do a great deal to increase this highly, profitable industry. The Departmental Committee to which I have referred, consisted of Members on both sides of the House and of experts of the Board of Agriculture and other places, and although we came to a perfectly unanimous report and put in the forefront this question of a special Department of the Board of Agriculture to establish an experimental farm, nothing has been done, and the fruit industry has been allowed to go on exactly as it was before. In a matter of this kind I think we are wasting our national resources by action of this kind. We could do a great deal more good and find more healthy employment for the people if the Government only gave us a little more assistance in these directions. What is the use of appointing a Committee of this sort, and what is the use of all the expenditure upon it and the time devoted to it, dragging up witnesses from the country on special subjects of all kinds if at the end of it all the whole thing is to be pigeon-holed and nothing more is heard of the subject for years. Although I do not now represent an agricultural constituency, I feel very strongly that some of the recommendations of that Special Committee ought to be carried out, and I call the attention of the Government to the unanimous Report of that Committee on the Fruit Industry, and I hope the hon. Gentleman opposite, who has shown himself such an expert at a moment's notice, will make a note of this point and report the matter to the President of the Board of Agriculture. 10.0 P.M. With regard to another kindred subject, I hope the Government will do something in the direction of allowing an experiment to be made in tobacco growing in this country. At the present time the position is really most ridiculous. Here we have tobacco growing in Ireland, a very flourishing industry. One of the grievances complained of was that you are deliberately destroying tobacco growing in Ireland m order that you will not lose the Revenue which accrues from Import Duties on foreign tobacco. We have passed an Act of Parliament making it illegal to grow tobacco either in Ireland, Scotland, or England, but what has happened in recent years? The Act making tobacco growing illegal has been withdrawn with regard to Scotland and Ireland, but it is still illegal to grow tobacco in England, and anyone who grows tobacco in England is liable to a heavy fine if he grows it for commercial purposes. In Ireland not only has tobacco-growing been made legal, but Irishmen have been given protection in the growing of tobacco. A few years ago it was laid down, I think by the late Lord Ritchie, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, that 100 acres in Ireland might be devoted to growing tobacco, in which case one-third of the duty would be remitted. It was a beautiful example of the advantage of nursing an infant industry under a protective wall, carrying out Mill's doctrine which Cobden said had done more harm to Free Trade than all the rest of Mill's book had done good to it. It is now permissible to grow tobacco on 100 acres, and instead of paying 3s. per lb. duty they only pay 2s. on the Irish grown tobacco. The result is that the experiment has been successful up to the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Has it paid?"] Yes, it has paid. It happens that a relative of mine is one of the Irish tobacco growers, and I know it has paid. It would not have paid during the first few years without this remission of the duty, but by this remission experience has been gained, and it has been found possible to create a new industry at first at a loss, but now the thing is actually paying, and it is a very good example of how you can create an industry under a protective wall. When it was found that this system of remitting one-third of the duty upon Irish grown tobacco was absolute Protection, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer did not like this interference with the eternal laws of Free Trade, and he said, "I will not give you this remission of duty, but I will give you a Grant-in-Aid." That Grant was a little more than the Government paid in the remission of duty. The name was changed, but the same thing went on all the time. If it is fair and right and a proper development of Ireland that tobacco should be grown under protection or under a Grant-in-Aid, why on earth do we not do the same thing in England? I can assure hon. Members opposite that there is any amount of soil and exactly the right climate for the successful growing of tobacco in many parts of this country. Tobacco likes a rather moist, mild climate, and that is why it has succeeded so well in Ireland. We have plenty of those conditions in the West of England and South Wales, where there is a soil eminently suited to grow tobacco. As one who is most anxious to see every kind of experiment undertaken, whether in the matter of fruit, beet, or tobacco, which will draw people back into the country and bring more employment to the country districts, I do most emphatically urge the Government to allow us, on a limited extent—say 100 acres—to grow tobacco and give us either protection or a Grant-in-Aid to enable the experiment to be carried on with a reasonable chance of success. I have intervened only because I wished to see these developments carried out, and as the chairman of that unfortunate fruit committee I want to see some of those recommendations of ours adopted, and more especially this experiment in tobacco growing which has proved so successful in Ireland.
I share the regret of the hon. Gentleman who has preceded me with reference to the absence of the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Strachey), who represents the Board of Agriculture. I will not follow the hon. Member in his interesting speech. The only point I wish to make is in regard to what he says about the recommendations of the committee on which he sat not having been carried out by the present Government. I think most Governments are remiss in carrying out the reports and recommendations of Commissions appointed by past Governments, and sometimes they are rather remiss in carrying out the reports of their own Commissions. The hon. Member for East Somerset said that the people were leaving the country districts because they were attracted by the lights and vices of the town. I do not think that is a charming way of speaking of the artisan population in our great centres of industry. One reason why the people leave the country districts is afforded in an answer given by the representative of the Board of Agriculture to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Morrell). That answer had reference to the conduct of a certain farmer in Wiltshire, who had been evicted and dismissed from his service because he applied for a small holding. It is such conduct as that, whether practised by farmers or landlords, which makes the agricultural portion of the country less inviting than it would otherwise have been.The particular grievance to which I want to call the Government's attention refers to the administration of the Small Holdings Act in certain parts of England. I have no complaint to make of the Small Holdings Committee of my own county, for the reason that a special area to which I am going to refer happens to be in the administrative county of Bristol. Gloucestershire is only second in the whole of England in the enterprise and activity of its Small Holdings Committee, largely the result of the magnificent work of the chairman. I want to call attention to a concrete example of how not to do things under the Small Holdings Act. There is a village called Shirehampton, near Bristol, and there is a large body of men who want small holdings and cannot get them. I have a list of nine men who have applied for small holdings for nearly four years, and they have not got an acre, or a portion of an acre, during the whole of that time. There are, I admit, difficulties in regard to their location. The land which surrounds the village is becoming largely building land. It is the land largely of one owner, and there are, I freely admit, greater difficulties there than in many other parts of England in giving the men what they want; but at the same time we have here a case of four years having elapsed, and not a scrap of land given to any of these men. I have taken the trouble to obtain their names and what they want. Mr. Studley asks for five acres, Mr. Davies for five acres, Mr. Edmonds for fourteen acres, Mr. Yerles for six acres, Mr. Denner for six acres, Mr. Robinson for between twenty and thirty acres, Mr. Parsons also for between twenty and thirty acres, and Mr. Wilding for twelve acres. Altogether over 100 acres have been asked for by these nine men. I have a letter of as long ago as December. 1907, addressed by the Board of Agriculture to Mr. Edmonds, one of the applicants. It is the ordinary kind of printed form sent out under the Small Holdings Act:—
These letters are not very satisfying to men who want small holdings. Two or three years ago I took some interest in this matter personally, and went to the Board of Agriculture. The gentleman I saw was, of course, extremely charming, and promised to do all he could. He took the matter up with the Bristol Corporation within whose boundaries this particular village lies, but nothing happened in the next eighteen months, and no small holdings were obtained. At last, after another interview, I obtained his consent to the sending down of a special inspector to interview these men. The inspector went down last September, and a copy of his report was sent to me. He advised that about half of these applicants were undoubtedly men with capital, and he had not a word to say against any of them. My information is that all these men have some capital, and that four or five of them have more than £100 capital. He further reported that he had taken the trouble to see the city valuer in Bristol, and to discuss with him what land could be obtained. He pressed on the corporation that something should be done, but nothing was done. He advised that, after a month's delay, the Board should write to the city council of Bristol and ask them what had been done. I wrote again on 5th February this year, and asked what had been done, and I do not think the Board had received any reply. I venture to suggest that the Board were somewhat remiss to allow the time between 1st October, 1910, and February, 1911, to elapse without acting on the advice of their own specially sent inspector and urging the corporation to be rather more active. I got a further reply from the Board on 7th February, which practically shows that the corporation were marking time. They did not, of course, say they were marking time, but they said they were looking into the matter and trying to deal with it, having various properties under their inspection. Nothing, however, has been done up to the present time. Consequently, one gets from time to time letters from these men saying:—"Sir, I am directed by the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd inst."
That sort of letter is rather miserable reading, especially when one knows it is by no means an isolated case. In another letter, signed by all these nine men setting out their grievances, their names and addresses, and what they want, this sentence occurs:—"Will you kindly give me your advice on behalf of the applicants for small holdings at Shirehampton, myself included? It is now just on four years, and we are no further ahead?
That is a story which, unfortunately, comes altogether too frequently before Members of Parliament who sit on this side of the House, and doubtless also before hon. Members who sit on the opposite side of the House. The Board of Agriculture now have two special Commissioners, and they constantly send deputy commissioners and inspectors to various parts of the country, and I think if they find either county councils or city councils unable or unwilling to do their duty they might themselves take advantage of the powers which were specially incorporated in the Small Holdings Act, and put the Act into operation by their own agents. This, I think, is the least they could do. I do not doubt that the majority of the Bristol Corporation are as anxious as I am that these men should get small holdings, but the difficulties, financial and otherwise, are so great that hitherto they have entirely failed to put the Act into operation, and for four years it has been an absolute dead letter as regards these nine men who want over 100 acres. They are decent men, of first-rate character with a little capital, and I believe the majority of them have been approved by the Small Holdings Committee of Bristol. I have put this concrete case, giving the names of the individuals and the amount of land they want, with the object of impressing on the Front Bench that there is most grave dissatisfaction throughout the agricultural portion of the country in regard to the administration of the Small Holdings Act. We are all of us acquainted with many applicants—I am acquainted with over fifty personally—who have been asking for land, who have been approved by Small Holdings Committees, and who have failed to get land. I think complaints like this which are made continually ought to impress the Board sufficiently for them to take advantage of their powers to put this Act into operation where the local authorities fail to do so."There are plenty of would-be applicants, but they say it is no use trying for those who have applied this last two or three years are no further ahead."
I unfortunately was not present during the whole of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but I understand that he acquitted the County Council of Gloucester, for which I am an agricultural Member, of all blame in this matter, and rather laid it on to the Corporation of Bristol for their lack of energy in putting in force their powers of taking land for small holdings. I hold no brief for the Corporation of Bristol, but I should like to say that there is great difficulty in certain parts of the county in getting possession of land for small holdings. Applicants for these holdings pick upon certain areas which they think suitable for themselves, and, in many cases, refuse any other land, except in that one place or locality. There is only one cure for this grievance, and, in my opinion, it is that those who wish for small holdings should be prepared, under a special organisation, to take up certain parcels of land and then go into the business where accommodation can be found. It is absolutely impossible, from the point of view of the farmers on the outside of large cities, that they should part with portions of their land and in most cases with the best portions of their farms. It is, I think, through the organisation and selection of suitable places that such a scheme of small holdings can best be carried out. I have every sympathy with applicants who wish for land. I have every sympathy for the town man who wishes to indulge in rural pursuits, but, at the same time, we must have regard for the present occupiers of the land and for the plain laws of supply and demand. We cannot expect that small holdings can be got just outside the large cities and towns at the same rates as those in ordinary rural districts. I think it is only right to point out these difficulties.
I should not have intervened in this Debate had I not desired to point out how true is much that the hon. Member has just stated. It agrees with my own experience in that district, which I represented in this House for several years, but still it does not afford a complete answer to the case. Although Gloucester has done better than most counties in the provision it has made for small holdings within its area it must be in the knowledge of the hon. Members that not all has been done that ought to have been done. Somebody said a little while ago in this discussion that labourers are leaving the land. I have knowledge of labourers who have left Gloucestershire because they could not get small holdings. They got sick and tired of waiting. The bottom rungs of the rural ladder, which were put in the Act in order to enable labourers to rise to a happier condition, do not always prove to be within their reach. They never get a chance, and throughout the district men are clamouring for these holdings. I know well that the district is not in every part suitable for small holdings, much of it is hill land, but there are cosy parts along many of the valleys where, without serious detriment to the sitting tenant, there might here and there be pieces of land set apart for small holdings. I remember when this matter was fought before the Constituency it was said by supporters of the hon. Member that nothing could ensure a settlement of this question which did not provide for the buying-up of small holdings by the tenant. The hon. Member is quite right when he said that you cannot properly establish small holdings in a neighbourhood all at once. He is quite accurate also in saying that difficulties arise here and there in the case of the better balanced sort of farms which will not bear this disturbance and clipping. That may be so, but I know that we—I among others—made a big mistake when we voted for this duty being given to the county councils. The county council of Gloucestershire have done something, but it has not done enough, and the county councils throughout England have done miserably. They do not like the Act, they do not believe in it, and they do not give it the shadow of a chance. The labourers, also, do not believe in it, and that is the secret of the whole thing. When the Government makes up its mind to shake up the Board of Agriculture, and if it shakes one or two men out of it it will have done something, it can then set up a body with plenary powers to make this Act work.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman representing the Board of Agriculture one question and make one suggestion to him. We have been told that there is great demand for these small holdings, and that there are thousands of men anxious to get holdings. The suggestion I would make, and the question I would ask is for him to take into consideration whether the land cannot be found for these small holdings from the various plots of glebe land scattered all over the country. In almost every village in the country there are small plots of glebe land, and in many of these cases the clergyman of the parish in charge of that land has no personal actual knowledge of agriculture. He has no understanding how to manage the land in question, and there are many clergymen I know who suffer great loss through their want of knowledge. Clergymen as a whole would, I think, be only too glad to be relieved of the management of these glebe lands, and if they were sold and the money invested for their benefit many clergymen would be pleased. I therefore suggest to the Government that they should take into consideration the question of obtaining these glebe lands.
I venture to bring before the House a different subject which has reference to the Foreign Office, and more especially to the payment of diplomatists. There is a considerable amount of injustice or, at any rate, hardship endured by the junior Members of the Diplomatic Service owing to the similar rates of pay that they receive all over the world, and the great difference in the cost of living at the different posts where they are sent. The suggestion I would venture to throw out, and it would relieve a good deal of the hardship which is undoubtedly felt by the junior members of the service, would be that the Government should allocate a local allowance to the various posts: the pay of all grades of the service is practically the same in all parts of the world, and obviously a young man would not join the service unless he had at least £400 a year. For the first two years he gets no pay, and after that he gets the princely sum of £150 a year; and then he rises until he may in the long run become an Ambassador, when he gets £11,500. Meantime he has had to spend a great deal of his own money, and in some cases it is quite impossible for him to meet the expense of living in the service. I cannot help thinking that the service suffers in consequence. They must endure a great deal of hardship. They cannot accept certain posts, and others who are well off are unwilling to go to foreign places, and consequently are able to secure all the plums of the service. It is not altogether a fair arrangement. For instance, take the difference in the cost of living in Brussels, in Copenhagen, in Paris, in Buenos Ayres, or in Santiago. At all these places the second Secretary gets £300 a year. In South American countries they do not make a fetish of birth, and do not care what the cost of articles are. Their chief attention is directed towards making money, and it falls very hard on the unfortunate individual who finds that instead of having 20s. in the sovereign he has only eleven dollars, and a dollar is worth the same amount as in this country. Then there is, of course, the question of the hardship entailed by the very heavy expense of the journey out to these far-off places, and it has to be borne when the Secretary comes home on leave. He has to pay it out of his pocket, and there again you have the difference in the cost which fails on a secretary coming from Buenos Ayres compared with the cost which has to be borne by a man returning from the Hague or from Brussels. He may have to take out his family and servants, and the whole expense of living in those countries is altogether out of proportion to the pleasure of being obliged to spend a certain number of years there. I hope the Foreign Secretary will find it possible to consider this point. I believe foreign nations have some system of local allowances, and that members of the Diplomatic Service serving in these expensive far-off places are unable to do so without having to put their hands in their own pockets and spending their own income in addition to the salaries they get.There is another question touching these far-off posts, which, I think, also merits the attention of the Government, and that is the question of the supply of Legation houses. I raise this point more especially with reference to some remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Noel Buxton), who suggested that there should be an increase in sympathetic activity, whatever that may mean, on the part of our diplomatic representatives abroad, and he explained that he advocated an extension of the international entertainment fund. I have no doubt the international entertainment fund does a great deal of good, but when there is a question of increasing the fund surely the point arises as to whether or not the money might not be better and more profitably spent in other ways. Entertaining obviously takes up a very large part of diplomacy. It is an important item, and these entertainments are certainly a severe strain on the finances of His Majesty's representatives, and if this international entertainment fund is increased a large number of foreign gentlemen would come over here and have the pleasure of dining with the hon. Member for Southampton, who, I understand, has control of that fund. That would be very nice for them undoubtedly, and lots of people would come from all countries, but as to whether any concrete advantage would result to international relations is a moot point. At the same time, I think there is a direction in which money could be very profitably spent with good results to the Service in connection with the supply of Legation houses, particularly in South America. When I served in the Legation at Buenos Ayres the Minister received £600 a year for his house allowance. It was perfectly impossible to find any house in Buenos Ayres suitable for a Legation for £600 a year. I do not think it is an indiscretion to say that the Minister used to spend £1,100 a year for an unfurnished house. That is not a fair expense to put upon one of His Majesty's representatives. In a country of that sort the summer months are so exceedingly hot that it is very necessary—indeed, it is indispensable if the Minister is to keep his health and remain efficient—that he should go to a cooler part of the country at that season. Therefore £600 per annum in Buenos Ayres is wholly inadequate, and entails heavy expenditure on the private funds of the Minister in charge. The same remarks apply in the case of Rio. It is not easy to be Minister there on the present allowance. There is £250 given to supply an office at Rio. That might be a good enough arrangement when Rio was an unhealthy place, and when yellow fever was prevalent there, but since it has been improved I know that there are complaints from the British community in Rio and throughout Brazil that the Minister does not reside at the capital instead of four miles away from it on a hill. The time will come when it will be necessary to have a Legation in Rio itself. Another point to be considered is the price of property and the cost of building. The cost of houses in every way is going up by leaps and bounds in those countries every day. The value of money there is not at all the same as in this country. Cost is a matter which nobody troubles about, for the people are making money hands over fist, and the consequence is that prices which might buy good houses now are very unlikely to buy good houses some years hence. Four years ago the Government were alive on this point, and did offer to buy a house for the Legation at Buenos Ayres for £20,000. The house pitched upon was undoubtedly quite unsuitable for the Legation, and it was found impossible to find a house suitable in the City. If it was impossible four years ago, I am perfectly certain, if the expression may be allowed, that it is more impossible to-day. The consequence is that the longer the Government put off buying the houses the more will be the prices they will have to give for them, and the greater will be the cost to the taxpayers in the long run. I do hope they will see their way to take time by the forelock and apply an adequate sum for buying houses in those places where the Ministers are obliged to hire houses, and where the house accommodation is so inadequate. It is very undesirable, indeed, and not particularly safe, to have an interregnum between the departure of one Minister and the arrival of another, during which the archives have to be kept nobody knows where. It is very desirable that there should be a fixed residence for the Minister, both from the point of view of the prestige of the country, and from the point of view of being certain that the archives are always in safe custody. I remember occasions when Legations have been shifted. It is a very happy-go-lucky business to have important documents shifted from one place to another. Just as in most European countries His Majesty's Minister is housed properly in a good part of the town, so in South America, where prestige is a matter of great importance, there should be suitable accommodation for His Majesty's representative. There was one point to which I referred before the hon. Gentleman came in, and which he will, perhaps, forgive me for repeating—that was the question of the pay of the junior ranks, the desirability of having local allowances in South America and other distant places where money has a far lower value than in this country. I do not see how otherwise you could possibly make the service fair for people with different kinds of income. It is very unfair to send a man to a far away post simply because he happens to be well enough off to live there. It is equally unfair for a man to be forced to go to a place where the cost of living is so high as seriously to cripple him in his subsequent career. You cannot get over that difficulty so long as all grades are paid a certain fixed sum wherever they are sent. I understand, though I am not quite certain, that in some foreign countries arrangements are made for paying local allowances to members of the service employed in certain cases. At any rate, there is some kind of compensation. That is the case with the French system. I submit that it would be an advantage to the service to have such an arrangement. There are men who may be very suitable for certain posts who are quite unable to go to them because they have not got the means. By such an arrangement as I have indicated the most suitable persons would be at the disposal of His Majesty's Government wherever they would be most useful. The favourable consideration of these two points would remove a justifiable grievance, and you would get more efficient work out of His Majesty's representatives in foreign countries, while the arrange- ment would be fairer all round, which is an aspect of the question that will appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House.
I was anxious earlier in the evening to raise two or three very important points with regard to the administration of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. In doing so I would like to quote a few words of the learned Attorney-General (Mr. Redmond Barry) on Friday last, when at short notice we were called upon to draw attention to one or two of the cases in his Department. He assured us that satisfaction had been obtained so far as he was concerned in the administration of law by the changes of venue from the more disturbed areas in Ireland to Dublin and Belfast, where fair trials were obtained. That result, if it were true, would have given as great satisfaction to me as to anybody else; but even since Friday last there have been several grievous cases of firing into houses, firing into railway trains and out of railway trains, and of general indiscriminate use by unauthorised persons of firearms which are simply astounding and alarming. What happened? I wish to state these concrete cases, and as the facts must be vouched for by somebody, I will vouch for them, as I have made inquiry and found they are as stated. What occurred no later than on St. Patrick's Day. Hon. Members opposite should treat those matters seriously; they are very serious to us who have to live in Ireland. I read the following as to an occurrence on St. Patrick's Day published in the "Sunday Chronicle":—
This was the action of a secret society—the Ancient Order of Hibernians—of which the hon. Member (I do not see him in his place) for West Belfast is the chief organiser. Without provocation and while passing along on this festive day, these ruffians fired from the train on to innocent women and children standing by the roadside. That is one incident which was brought to my attention. Here is another, which was brought to my attention this afternoon in the Smoke-room. An account of it appears in the "Irish Times." It has reference to a malicious injury application in Meath. This case has been tried, and it is over. The county-court judge, his Honour Judge Curran, who was appointed by the present Government."It appears that an excursion train was conveying a party of Hibernians from Toome to Coleraine, and as the train was passing through Upperlands Station Mr. H. J Clark, of the well-known firm of Messrs. Clark and Sons, was standing on the County Road, which runs for 150 yards or so parallel with the railway A number of workers' houses stand between the road and the track, and four or five of Messrs. Clark's employés were in the vicinity at the time. No provocation of any kind, it is declared, was given to the passing excursionists, nor indeed was any notice taken of them, but as the train swept by a volley of revolver shots was fired from the carriages at the cottages and at the people on the road."
The CHIEF SECRETARY for IRELAND (Mr. Birrell)
As a matter of fact he was not.
I apologise. But it does not affect what I am stating. Judge Curran, in respect of one offence, imposed £20 compensation, and in other cases £2 each, and a further case £8, making £34 in all. The county court judge said:—
So that in the North, by those miserable ruffians of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, you have the shooting of the gravest character, and when you turn to Meath you discover that men are invading a man's farm. Remember, these outrages are directed not as against what used to be called the "landlord gang," but against the very farmers living peaceably and quietly on their farms. Here we find men going at dead of night, taking the man's horses and using them for ploughing up his field which he desired to have in pasture. The farmer is then compelled to appeal to justice, and in every one of those eight cases County Court Judge Curran permitted him compensation"Woods, when he came on the farm found that two old meadow fields that had been in pasture, to the applicant's knowledge for seventeen or eighteen years, had been ploughed up during the night. Two marcs were worked in such a way that they were utterly unfit for work. The plough was broken, the machinery was scattered round the field, and some of the gates were thrown into a quarry."
The question further which I wish to ask the Chief Secretary, and I am sure he must be aware of the details of this case, which goes to show how the Government in Ireland works under the present regime, is as to Glin District Council. I referred to this matter at question time, but the right hon. Gentleman, of course, turned it aside with one of his ready jokes. What happened? The Glin Rural District Council had a clerk, who was found guilty of a very serious offence. I shall not go further into it than to say that in one instance he was fined £10, later on £30, the amount being reduced from £50 to £30 on appeal, and he was found guilty, and sentenced to a term of three months' imprisonment for a criminal assault on a child of the age of sixteen, and had to pay £40 compensation to the said child. This man's wife, after the man having committed these offences, and having been found guilty on three occasions and served a sentence in prison, is appointed to the position of clerk of this district council against all the respectable representations of the neighbourhood. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] I will tell you why not, because that man is now out of jail, and because the wife was laid up, and this criminal was allowed to go and act as clerk of the council. I say it is a shame, a positive shame. The Local Government Board, over which the right hon. Gentleman presides, ought to be positively ashamed of themselves to sanction the appointment of a criminal who had to go to prison for three months, and that they should permit him or his family to carry on a Government appointment in Ireland. Hon. Members cheer that and say "why not." If that is the kind of Government they suggest should be carried on in Ireland I think they misunderstand the amount of opposition which is going to be afforded to anything of the kind. This is a scandal, a grave scandal, and it is one to which, when I drew the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, I got no satisfaction. I would like to ask if the right hon. Gentleman is aware that out of seven councillors in this particular locality five are near relations of this clerk and his wife, who now occupies his position. I think that the Local Government Board are acting in a spirit that is not in accordance with the tradition of any Government office when they permit those things and in this House slur over them instead of dealing with them with a stern hand. Those are cases which have come to my notice within the past few days. There is another instance which the right hon. Gentleman must know all about. It is a very serious bomb outrage. From the outset the Chief Secretary has misunderstood, and gravely under-estimated, what will occur if he does not treat these outrages in a different spirit. At Gortoncullin, in county Tipperary, on 6th March, two pieces of iron piping, plugged with wood at one end and loaded with explosives and pieces of metal like bolts or nuts, were placed against the kitchen window of a man named Pratt. One of them exploded, blowing out the window and doing considerable damage. What does the Chief Secretary say in a case like that? Simply that no arrests have been made, and that it is not the practice in such cases to assign any reason. Time and again in proved cases of outrage we get that answer. I had it the same day in reference to a shooting outrage, where revolver shots were fired at a carriage as a train was leaving Ennis for West Clare at the conclusion of the assizes. We all know that stereotyped reply. I have in my hand a sheaf of cases, all of which I intend to bring to the notice of the House. There is one dealing with the burning of the house over the heads of three old women, endangering their lives. The judge awarded compensation, not because lives were endangered, but because a quantity of hay and oats were burned at the same time. We have here a case in which a threatening letter was sent, signed "Captain Moonlight"; another in which the residence of a lieutenant-colonel of the Royal Navy was fired into; and another in which eleven shots were fired into the house of an old man named O'Conlon. I have also another very serious charge, in which his Honour, in giving judgment, said that the claim arose out of a cruel, wicked, and dastardly outrage. I could give very many more. The moral I wish to draw is this: The Chief Secretary some years ago, early in his career, assured the House that this method of allowing juries in different parts of Ireland to have full sway in the trial of local cases would lead to peace and less crime. The exact opposite has been the case. Where it has not been the case it is because those cases have been reported to the Chief Secretary or to this House. The terror caused by these local Irish leaders, by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, in these lonely country spots has so cowed the people there that their witnesses refuse to come forward to claim the various places in which they have been living. It is open knowledge to everyone who has the interests of Ireland at heart that it is the absolute weakness and wilful misunderstanding of the Irish people on the part of the Chief Secretary that has made, and will for all time make, him a by-word for the way he has treated the people. It is the future we are thinking of when we draw attention to these very grave matters, and point out to the right hon. Gentleman the wrong road on which he is leading the people.
How is it, I ask, that the Chief Secretary says that he detests these things going on and does not go down to Mayo, Clare, and Galway and say to the people there: "I am responsible for law and order in Ireland, and I will see that the majesty of the law is maintained in these parts." I accuse both the Law Officers of the Crown of being just as weak as the Chief Secretary. They, so far, have not risen to the high position which ought to have been before even the Chief Secretary, to maintain law and order. I cannot conceive how it was that the present Lord Justice Cherry said that his position was subordinate to that of the Chief Secretary, and that he was there to obey his behests. That is a very wrong attitude for the Law Officers of the Crown to take. I think it is because the domineering policy of the Chief Secretary has prevailed over the Law Officers of the Crown that we have this crime, which is smothered in many instances in the first case, and in many others is not brought to the light of day through the people not being able to bring forward their cases, except they write to one of the Ulster Unionist Members, who neither fear the Nationalist party nor anyone else.
And, it being Eleven of the clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing-Order No. 15, to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Report of the Vote.
Question put, and agreed to.
Adjourned at Four minutes after Eleven o'clock.