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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.
THE year opened amid political lassitude, and with gloomy prospects alike in foreign politics and in finance. The outlook in the Near East was alarming; the terrible accounts of the Messina earthquake were only relieved by the exhibitions of courage and helpfulness on the part of the Navy and of British merchant seamen in the catastrophe. At home the revenue for the past nine months had been considerably below the Estimates; the claims for old-age pensions greatly exceeded expectation (see Chronicle, Jan. 1 and 21). Mr. Asquith had reckoned on 500,000 pensioners; the number of those who had established their claims was already 490,000, and an addition was probable of 130,000. The Territorial Army as yet numbered (including officers) only 207,000 out of a full establishment of 315,000. Ireland was becoming more disorderly, and the new Home Rule campaign in England, announced in the autumn, had not proved encouraging to its promoters. The women suffragistsreinforced by delegates from Finland, one of them a woman member of the legislature continued their agitation. The unemployed likewise held open-air meetings, in some cases followed by demonstrations in the West End, notably on January 13, before certain houses in Grosvenor Square. The Temperance party in the Church of England, apparently despairing of effective legislation, planned a great "forward movement" of personal effort, which was commended by the Primate in letters to the Bishops and to the Chairman of the Church of England Temperance Society on January 6. The advocates of Church schools
kept up their agitation, and a "Religious Equality Committee initiated in the autumn numbered 2,000 early in January. There seemed little hope of a settlement, though the Conciliation Committee continued its efforts. The Bishop of London, in commending it in a New Year's Letter (Jan. 1) described the "recent well-meant attempt at a solution " as frustrated by "secrecy and haste," and declared the "right of entry" as at present advocated a failure. He pleaded for recognition of denominational schools, and recommended the Committee to devote its efforts. to one-school areas; a solution might be found by the allocation to such schools of part of the education rate.
Material for two notable contributions to the social programme of the Government was furnished early in the new year. The Report of the Departmental Committee on the Truck Acts, appointed in April, 1906, was issued on January 7. It was the result of an exhaustive inquiry, and recommended the consolidation of the Truck Acts and their extension to outworkers, severe restriction of the system of fines and deductions, and further regulation and Government inspection of the arrangements for workers (mostly shop assistants) "living in" the establishments of their employers. Two of the Committee, Mrs. H. J. Tennant and Mr. Walsh, M.P., condemned fines, deductions and living-in altogether, and signed a minority report recommending that they should be declared illegal.
A more daring project was put forward by the Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1906, p. 32) in its Report published January 15. It declared that a national scheme of afforestation would contribute to the solution of the unemployed problem, and that its immediate inception was of the highest public interest. It estimated that in England and Wales some 2,500,000 acres of mountain and heath land were afforestable, besides 1,000,000 acres of poor agricultural land. In Scotland 6,000,000 acres were afforestable, and in Ireland at least 500,000. The scheme would givé temporary employment directly to about 18,000 men each winter, and to about the same number indirectly in subsidiary occupations, while more might be employed in emergencies. As regarded the financial results, the Committee concluded that (on either of two hypotheses as to the amount afforested annually) there would be a progressive deficit for forty years, rising to some 3,500,000l.; in the forty-first year the forests would be self-supporting, and after seventy or eighty years respectively they would yield a revenue of 31. 16s. 6d. per cent., on the excess of accumulated charges over receipts. Legislation was recommended for the appointment of Commissioners with compulsory powers of land purchase, and the grant to them of an annual free loan from the Treasury for the necessary period. The Report received a good deal of criticism from experienced landowners, though it laid stress on the progressive exhaustion of the timber supplies of the world.
The first speeches delivered after the holidays were of no great importance. At Liverpool, on January 8, Mr. F. E. Smith delivered a spirited rejoinder to Mr. Lloyd-George's speech in the same place on December 22; at East Linton on the same evening Mr. Haldane referred to the development within the Unionist party of the secret and self-appointed committee called the "Confederacy" (post, p. 4); and at Birmingham, on January 11, Mr. Austen Chamberlain expressed the Unionist readiness to join issue on Tariff Reform and the House of Lords. But a more significant speech was delivered two days later in that town by Mr. Winston Churchill on January 13. He vigorously denounced the narrow-minded politicians who dominated the city; urged the Liberal party not to be intimidated by the number and vigour of the Press opposed to them, since" the platform could always beat the Press"; and scouted the idea that the bye-elections could intimidate the Government, or that they would fight the general election on any other ground than that of their own choosing, or at any time but that most advantageous to the general interest of the progressive cause. The reform of the House of Lords must be the issue at a general election; let the Peers dare to force a dissolution on the Budget. The predictions that a Liberal Government would be powerless in Imperial affairs had been falsified, and at home, though their policy was less matured and complete, the social field lay open for reform. Next day, speaking at the annual dinner of
the Leicester Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Churchill said that in the past year there had been trade contraction and depression, but it had been worse in the United States and Germany, and had involved, especially in the former, a severe financial crisis. Of the decline of 114,000,000l. in our exports, 40,000,000l. was due to contraction in values, and our trade figures were greater than those of any other country, or than our own before 1906. There was a consensus of opinion that the bottom had been reached, and the conditions were not now present that had retarded revival on other occasions. Money was cheap, and not from want of confidence in the Government. The recovery was not likely to be retarded by labour troubles, and progress had been made in settling these by arbitration and conciliation. After a reference to the new arbitration tribunal (ANNUAL REGISTER, 1908, p. 194), and an expression of opinion that sweated trades required special treatment, he said that 1909 would be a year of important and democratic finance, but there was no reason to apprehend financial injury to the smooth and active flow of business enterprise. The Balkan outlook had sensibly improved, and the year would be one of recovery.
Mr. Churchill's attitude towards the Lords, apart from his language, was disappointing to advanced Liberals; but Mr. Haldane in East Lothian (Jan. 9) and the Earl of Crewe at Brierley Hill (Jan. 18) took a rather more decided line, the former declaring that a step forward was necessary to adjust the