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THE Editor of the ANNUAL REGISTER thinks it necessary to state that in no case does he claim to offer * original reports of speeches in Parliament or elsewhere. For the former he cordially acknowledges his great indebtedness to the summary and full reports, used by special permission of The Times, which have appeared in that journal, and he has also pleasure in expressing his sense of obligation to the Editors of “Ross's Parliamentary Record,” The Spectator, and The Guardian, for the valuable assistance which, by their consent, he has derived from their summaries and reports, towards presenting a compact view of the course of Parliamentary proceedings. To the Editors of the two last-named papers he further desires to tender his best thanks for their permission to make use of the summaries of speeches delivered outside Parliament appearing in their columns
FOR THE YEAR
BEFORE THE SESSION.
The fact that Parliament was to meet on January 29 deprived the month of much of its customary interest. The Prime Minister, in an interview published by the Manchester Guardian, anticipated that the Ministry would secure two or three years of effective work before another general election; but it was
generally felt that the programme of the coming session must · be formidable, and that grave difficulties would attend the Ministerial measures dealing with licensing, education, and finance. In the conflict with the Upper House the Ministry seemed to be slackening, and to be receiving inadequate support in the country. The economic outlook was becoming overcast. The high tide of prosperity had begun to ebb. The Revenue returns for the October quarter showed a decrease in all departments except the Post Office, and amounting altogether to 1,150,0001. The Board of Trade returns showed that, though the exports of coal were heavy, those of manufactured goods were decreasing; and the financial stress in the United States and Germany was ominous of depression in Great Britain. In the Lancashire cotton trade a serious dispute was impending, and the question of unemployment was becoming more acute. The Eight Hours Bill for miners was expected to reduce the output of coal, and thereby to hamper all other industries ; and the spokesman of a deputation from the Mining Association of Great Britain, which waited on the Home Secretary on January 8 to deprecate the measure, estimated the reduction at nearly 34,500,000 tons annually.
In Church matters the outlook was more hopeful. There were signs, which were not altogether borne out later in the year, that the conflict between Church and State over the Deceased Wife's Sister Act might be abated: the Bishop of Carlisle in his New Year pastoral favoured the celebration of the marriages in question in church, and intimated that he would not debar the parties from the Communion. The significance of the coming Pan-Anglican Conference was recognised by the Primate in a message to his diocese. Its deliberations, he said, would enable English Churchmen to view somewhat differently, with the help of observers from other lands, the large questions of educational, social, and liturgical policy which the Church would have to face in the coming year.
The political speeches in January, as in previous months, were mainly echoes of the controversies of 1907, though one new subject was brought into prominence by Opposition speakers —the treatment of British Indians in the Transvaal (post, Foreign History, Chapter VII.). The women's suffrage agitation continued to diversify party politics. In the first week of the year certain women suffragists had interrupted the proceedings in some of the London police courts by protests against the condemnation of women by “man-made law”; and Mr. Haldane's warning to the feminine agitators-given before the Scottish Liberal Council at Glasgow on January 8—that their vexatious methods had injured their cause in Parliament, was quite ineffectual. He stated at the same time that ultimately the suffrage could not be withheld from women. On the same day, at Stirling, the Lord Advocate declared that the recent Unionist campaign in Scotland had been “wholly bloodless,” and the Earl of Crewe, at Watford next day, promised an Education Bill which would satisfy moderate men, a Licensing Bill accelerating the reduction in the number of public-houses, and a continuance of Mr. Birrell's policy in Ireland.
A more important speech, as defining the position of the small “ Centre party” of Unionist Free Traders, whose views were best expressed by the Spectator, was delivered by Lord Cromer before the Unionist Free-Trade Club of Glasgow on January 10. It was largely a reply to criticisms on his speech of Nov. 21, 1907 (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1907, p. 221). Free Trade, he declared, was a safeguard against the creation of huge trusts, it had specially benefited the poorer classes, and it was the soundest possible basis for a healthy Imperialism. The Customs duties in Egypt, which had been quoted against him, were duties for revenue, and an equivalent excise duty had been placed on native cotton goods to safeguard the Customs revenue and check the rise of an artificially protected manufacture. He went on to ask if the additional revenue demanded by tariff reformers was really needed, and strongly protested against an old age pension scheme, as developing in Great Britain that demoralising dependence on the State which he and others bad
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done their best to eradicate in Egypt. He urged his hearers to beware of this “new-born and ill-advised enthusiasm for fresh taxation," and, if a positive policy had to be found for Unionist Free Traders, he urged the enforcement of economy, the reduction of taxation, reform of the House of Lords, and opposition to hasty reforms. Lord Balfour of Burleigh also spoke, pointing out that Tariff Reformers virtually admitted that the new taxes would raise prices by their eagerness to disclaim all intention of taxing raw materials. If, as Lord Lansdowne had seemed to say, a Unionist victory would not commit the party to colonial preference, but only to the summoning of a new conference, they had the germs of a reasonable compromise. But he thought the Unionist leaders could not control the ardent Tariff Reformers, and he referred to the success of a section of the latter in extracting a declaration in favour of Tariff Reform from Lord Henry Bentinck, a Unionist Free Trade candidate in South Nottingham. This section, of which more was heard later, was known as the “ Confederates," and was described by Lord Robert Cecil in The Times of January 23 as “political moonlighters ”; they intended to run Tariff Reform candidates against all Free-Trade Unionists, and were said to have twenty such candidates in readiness. The FreeTrade Unionists were believed to be contemplating retaliatory measures, possibly at the coming Worcester election.
Mr. Asquith, speaking at Lancaster on January 15, remarked that, as the Protectionists predicted, less satisfactory trade years were coming, but in them Free Trade would prove the sheet-anchor for British industry. He promised that the Education Bill would be short, simple and drastic, and indicated that an old age pension scheme would be begun. Sir Edward Grey on the same evening at Alnwick after contrasting Liberal union with the marked divisions among the Unionists, and pointing to the Liberal successes in army reform, South Africa, India, and other departments, remarked that foreign nations were increasing their navies, and that, although the British navy was adequate against any probable combination, if the foreign programmes were carried out our own navy must be further increased. He agreed with Lord Cromer that a Protective system would greatly increase the probability of a hostile combination against Great Britain.
Mr. Balfour spoke in Glasgow on Friday, January 17, and had an enthusiastic reception. He declared that the autumn campaign in Scotland against the Lords had failed; the Government Bills dealing with Scottish land were not meant to pass, but to promote the agitation. He elaborately attacked the two Bills in question, incidentally telling the story of the crofter agitation in Barra and Vatersay (post, Chapter VI.) to show that the Crofters Act had failed to check congestion in Scotland; and said that the Government, instead of passing beneficial legislation, seemed to think that the only way to help any class was
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