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of coal-mining, as by the employment of coal-cutting machines, by apparatus for the better handling of coal on the surface, and by the profitable using up (by coking," briquetting" and otherwise) of small coal.
In the first week of February the voluntary Central Metropolitan Committee which had been created in pursuance of suggestions made by Mr. Long, President of the Local Government Board, to consult with and supplement the action of local joint committees (of local authorities and local charitable agencies) in regard to the unemployed question (see ANNUAL REGISTER for 1904, p. 209), issued a summary of the work already done and a sketch of the future operations which it was intended to carry out if the necessary capital were provided. They had allocated (subject to some probable recoupments) the 45,0001. by that time subscribed by the public, and reckoned that at least 6,000 persons, who would otherwise have been out of employment, had received some twelve weeks' steady work. This had been done by the co-operation of Government Departments, the central authorities of London, and those of the twenty-seven metropolitan boroughs, and the Salvation Army (at their farm colony at Hadleigh). Including their wives and children some 30,000 people had benefited by the fund. As to the future, arrangements had been made for starting a central labour exchange, by which it was hoped that much might be done, not only in London but also in the provinces, to bring employers and employed more closely into touch. Besides, the committee had, in co-operation with existing agencies, determined upon a scheme of emigration work. In regard to the development of the Colony of Hollesley Bay, where 1,300 acres of land and housing accommodation for large numbers had been generously placed at their disposal by Mr. Fels at a peppercorn rental for three years, with the option of purchase at the present cost price at the end of that period, detailed plans had not yet been formulated. Immediate employment could, however, be provided there for upwards of 300 men, and in the course of a few months it was hoped that a large number of families would be established there. There were possibilities of every kind, such as general agricultural work, poultry farming, brick-making, road-making, land reclaiming, and so on, but 25,0001. would be needed to develop the full capacities of the place. Altogether, to carry out their plans properly, the Committee appealed for contributions to be sent to the Lord Mayor, to an amount equal to that which they had already received and allocated.
On the whole, though the work done by the Central Committee was not exempt from criticism, the general impression was that the idea which it embodied was a fruitful one and might be permanently and more extensively utilised. On February 7 a deputation waited on the Prime Minister from a conference of joint committees of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress and the General Federation of
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Trade Unions appointed to draft proposals on the unemployed question, with the co-operation of the Labour Members of Parliament. Different members of the deputation urged that the evil of unemployment was growing and becoming a serious menace to the State, and among other remedies they suggested a general establishment of farm colonies; the extension throughout the country of the organisation suggested by Mr. Long, and in operation for London; the carrying out of public works, such as protecting the coast where it was being washed away, and reafforestation, utilisation of certain Crown lands for quarrying and the extraction of minerals, the more systematic regulation of employment by Government departments, and generally an early preparation for possible times of distress. In his reply, Mr. Balfour pointed out that work on land preservation from the encroachments of the sea could only provide a temporary palliative for unemployment, and that afforestation was not likely to be a “paying investment." Nor would it be easy for the State to engage profitably in mineral enterprises. Of farm colonies he spoke more hopefully, as possibly serving to correct an immigration into London not justified by economic conditions. As to districts almost entirely occupied by a workingclass population, he recognised the special difficulty in which they were placed at times of distress; but he pointed out in the case of West Ham, which had been specially referred to in that connection, that it had had, and had refused some ten years previously, to his regret, the opportunity of becoming part of the administrative county of London. Mr. Balfour went on to say that the Government agreed with the deputation that it would be desirable to have some more permanent machinery for dealing with what they recognised as being a great, though varying, evil, and that this question was under Mr. Long's consideration. The difficulty would be to secure that any machinery which might be established should not serve to create a class permanently dependent on the State or other public authorities for employment. Success would be measured by the number of men who were assisted to tide over times of distress and again join the ranks of the regularly employed.
This statement, though commending itself on the whole to sober persons, of course failed to satisfy extremists. The Social Democratic Federation proposed to organise a deputation to approach the House of Commons on behalf of a meeting of the unemployed to be held in Trafalgar Square, and wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject. He replied, through a secretary, that any petition which might be sent through the proper channel would be presented to the House, but that it was “not the practice of that Assembly to receive deputations.” Nevertheless, at a meeting on February 11, attended, it was said, by only some 2,000 to 3,000 men, but to some extent reinforced morally by telegrams from the unemployed in provincial cities and towns, requesting that they should be represented on the
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deputation to the House of Commons, it was resolved to appoint a deputation to be at the House at two o'clock on the day of its first meeting (Feb. 14). A resolution was also passed condemning the Government for their “callous indifference" in failing to respond to the various appeals addressed to them during the autumn to summon a special session on the unemployed question. The deputation attended at Westminster on the 14th, but, of course, could not be received by the House of Commons.
Unionist Dissensions at Greenwich-Success of Lord Lansdowne's Foreign
Policy-Opening of Parliament; the King's Speech-Debate on the Address in the Lords; the Address Carried-Debate in the Commons; Amendments on the Fiscal Question and Chinese Labour-The MacDonnell Question ; Statement by Mr. Wyndham ; Debate in the Lords; Debates in the Commons on Nationalist Amendment to the Address and on Motion for Adjournment; the MacDonnell-Wyndham Letters; Mr. Balfour's Statement as to the Viceroy's Opinions-Debates on Amendments to the Address on Army Administration, Rural Depopulation, the Macedonian Question, Sugar Con. vention, National Expenditure and Irish Labourers-Address Carried-Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into the Dogger Bank Incident --The Working of the Education Acts—The Association of Chambers of Commerce and the Fiscal Question-Bye-Elections in the Everton Division of Liverpool and North Westmoreland; Mr. Chamberlain thereon-ByeElection in Buteshire-Retirement of Lord Milner; Lord Selborne Appointed as his Successor-Mr. Wyndham's Resignation--Lord Rosebery at the City Liberal Club-Debates on Army Supplementary Estimates-Navy Estimates ; Debates thereon — Irish Debates - Mr. Long as Irish Secretary-Mr. Churchill's Fiscal Motion; Interesting Debate-Debates in the Lords on India and the Fiscal Question, and on the Navy-Ministerial Rearrangements -Useful Minor Legislative Measures—Trade Unions and Trade Disputes Bill -Coal Mines Employment Bill_Workmen's Compensation Bill in the Lords -Skirmish between Mr. Redmond and Lord Rosebery-"Guillotining" of Supply-South African War Supplies ; Statement by Mr. Arnold-ForsterDiscussion of the Beck Case – Debates on the Transvaal Loan - Debates on Physical Deterioration Report - Irish Debates - Treatment of West Australian Aborigines—Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Hugh Cecil-Series of Fiscal Debates in the Commons Boycotted by Ministers; Resolutions against the Government Carried nem. con. and Ignored by Them-Brighton Election Army Estimates, Protracted Debates-Lord Lansdowne on Macedonia, and on Germany in the Pacific-Commons' Discussion on Cotton Growing-Free Trade Unionists at Their Club and in the Lords—Civil Service and Revenue Estimates—The Budget—The Lords and Public Business-Lord Lansdowne on Contraband and the Peace Conference-Mr. Long and Sir A. MacDonnell — Home Rule Debate - Irish University Education - Land Values (Assessment and Rating) Bill— Agricultural Rates Act and Tithe Rent Charge Act Continuance Bill—Introduction of Unemployed Workmen and Aliens Bills-Underfed School Children-Easter Adjournment.
DURING the last few days before the beginning of the new session, the acuteness of the dissensions in progress within the Unionist party in the constituencies in connection with the fiscal question was illustrated by the adoption, by a majority of 46 votes to 32, by the Greenwich Conservative Association, of a resolution asking Lord Hugh Cecil, the most brilliant and distinguished of the younger Conservative Members of Parliament, not to come forward again as a candidate for the borough. This request was presented to him by a deputation on February
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17, when, after a discussion of which the tone was friendly, Lord Hugh Cecil expressed regret that he felt bound, notwithstanding the views represented by the deputation, to appeal again for the suffrages of the Greenwich electors. It shortly appeared that the local Protectionist opposition to Lord Hugh Cecil's re-election had been discouraged in a communication received at Greenwich from the headquarters of the Conservative organisation. This and other incidents already referred to seemed, however, to point to the possibility of an open rupture in the Unionist party at an early date, and certainly tended to weaken its authority as the party controlling the destinies of the country.
At the same time there can be no doubt that the general conduct of foreign affairs by Lord Lansdowne had increasingly commanded public confidence, and the appearance on the day of the opening of Parliament of a Blue-book, containing the correspondence with Russia on the question of Contraband, distinctly strengthened this asset standing to the credit of the Government. The correspondence showed that the preposterous claim advanced by Russia in the spring of 1904 to decide at her own mere pleasure what commodities might be treated as absolutely contraband, was virtually abandoned in September in the case of rice and other provisions. In regard to coal and raw cotton (apparently because available in the manufacture of explosives) the Russian Government refused to yield on the question of principle, but intimated that instructions would be issued to the Imperial Navy which would obviate all cause for complaint; and, as a matter of fact, except in the case of undoubted blockade-runners seized by the Japanese, no more British ships had been captured. The strong parallel line taken by the United States Government beyond question contributed materially to the satisfactory adjustment of these matters; but the course of Lord Lansdowne's diplomacy had clearly been calculated, in a high degree, to bring about a favourable result.
Parliament was opened by the King in person, accompanied by the Queen, on February 14. The Speech from the Throne, after referring with “particular satisfaction” to the recent visit of the King and Queen of Portugal, and mentioning the Government's strict observance of the obligations of neutrality in the Russo-Japanese war, touched on the continued “cause for anxiety” afforded by the condition of the Balkan Peninsula. Progress had been made in the reorganisation of the Gendarmerie, with valuable aid from British officers, but “radical reforms, especially of the financial system,” were required before any permanent improvements in the administration of the disturbed provinces could be effected. Proposals to that end had been lately addressed to the Porte by the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Governments, and the British Government was engaged in communications on the subject.
The Speech then recorded the ratification by the French
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Legislature of the Anglo-French Convention; the conclusion of agreements for the reference of international questions of a certain class to arbitration, with Sweden and Norway, Portugal and Switzerland ; and the agreement with Russia for the investigation of the circumstances connected with the North Sea disaster, and the “apportioning of responsibility” for that “ deplorable incident.”
The steps to be taken for establishing a Representative Constitution in the Transvaal were receiving earnest consideration, and His Majesty hoped that they would “result in substantial progress towards the goal of complete self-government.” The Tibetan Agreement was referred to with satisfaction, the Speech observing that “the great difficulties which the mission had encountered were brilliantly surmounted by the civil and military authorities responsible for its conduct." Negotiations were impending with the Amir of Afghanistan through a high officer deputed to Cabul from Calcutta for the discussion of “ questions affecting the relations of the two Governments.”
Turning to domestic subjects the Royal Speech placed in the forefront of legislative duties the treatment of the Scottish ecclesiastical difficulty, as to which the King hoped that the Commission which he had appointed would afford the requisite enlightenment to Parliament. The Estimates for the service of the ensuing year had been framed, the Members of the House of Commons were assured, with the “utmost economy” permissible by the circumstances of the time. The attention of Parliament would be directed to “proposals for diminishing the anomalies in the present arrangement of electoral areas which were “largely due to the growth and movement of population in recent years.” Bills would be presented dealing with Alien Immigration, and providing some permanent machinery for the treatment of the unemployed question, in connection with which His Majesty had “noticed with profound regret and sympathy the abnormal distress” prevalent during the winter, Legislation on the subject of Education in Scotland would again be brought forward. A Bill for the amendment and extension of the Workmen's Compensation Act would be submitted, as would proposals for improving the status of the Local Government Board and the Board of Trade, and for establishing a Minister of Commerce and Industry.
In a concluding omnibus paragraph the Speech stated that Bills would also be introduced for amending the law with respect to valuation authorities, and the procedure for making valuations ; for consolidating the enactments relating to naval prize of war; for amending the law relating to the notification of industrial accidents; for the renewal of the Agricultural Rates Acts and other temporary Acts affecting certain classes of ratepayers; for the prevention of the adulteration of butter; and for the amendment of the law with regard to cases stated for the Court of Crown Cases Reserved.