Maltesenobles88

THE MALTESE NOBILITY AS REPORTED TO THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT, including many erstwhile unpublished facts:

 

 

·       includes events leading to 1878 enquiry by Commissioners ;

·       includes developments after 1878;

·       includes references to the (a) Association of Noblemen of Malta (b) Committee of the Nobles of Malta (c) Permanent Committee of the Nobles of Malta (d) Committee of the Maltese Nobility and (e) Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility)

·       includes reference to 1892 recommendation of Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility regarding Giuseppe Apap Testaferrata (who was claiming the title of Marchese granted in 1717 to his maternal ancestor Mario Testaferrata );

·       includes Strickland’s complaint of the loss of status of the Maltese nobility;

·       includes the stated role of the two representatives from Malta at any British Coronation in the sense that they represented the “general community” rather than any particular section. Therefore the “Maltese nobility” was not “represented” but it was the Colony of Malta that was represented by certain noblemen.

 

1876 (1)

H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES—NOBILITY OF MALTA.—QUESTION.

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HL Deb 11 May 1876 vol 229 cc362-4 362

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether any correspondence has passed through the Colonial Office in reference to certain grievances complained of by the Nobility of Malta on the occasion of the recent visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to that island? They complained that the Governor had prevented their presenting an Address to His Royal Highness as a separate body, and that therefore they had to go with the rest of the inhabitants of the island. The Nobility of Malta was a very ancient class. Although they had no legislative powers they had certain rights and privileges of which they were naturally 363 jealous, and this of addressing the Throne separately they considered as one of their rights. They had always been a separate body, and were members of some of the best Neapolitan and Sicilian families. He had the honour of being personally acquainted with many of its members, and he thought it would be a great pity if any Government should pass a slight on so cultivated a body of men, and a body who were so thoroughly attached to the English rule. He hoped, therefore, his noble Friend would be enabled to inform the House whether it was true that they had been refused permission to present an Address to the Prince, as was stated, or what grounds there were for the slight which they seemed to think had been put upon them? 

 

THE EARL OF CARNARVON said, his answer to the Question of his noble Friend must necessarily be very brief, because he had no information, official or private, on the subject to which it related. He had seen a copy of a newspaper in which complaint was made that the Nobles of Malta on the occasion of His Royal Highness's visit to that island had not received that attention which they considered to be their due—that was a paragraph in the newspaper to the end of which was attached the signature of the Secretary of the Association of Noblemen of Malta. Whether the facts were as there stated he had no official means of knowing. He might, however, mention, which he did officially, that whereas in other Colonies which His Royal Highness had visited his reception was provided for out of the public exchequer and under the sanction and arrangement of the public authorities, in Malta it had been very much matter of private management—which might possibly afford some clue to the complaint now made. Nowhere had any difficulty or hitch occurred in the arrangements connected with the Prince's tour, and certainly Malta was no exception, and it was to be regretted that a single place or class should consider themselves aggrieved by any arrangements made by the local authorities. He could not believe that any slight was designed by the Governor or local authorities, who had every desire to respect the feelings of the population of Malta; and he trusted that when the matter came to be 364 further looked into it would be seen that really there was no cause to complain, and certainly no desire to inflict the smallest slight on any particular body.

1876 (2)

H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES—THE NOBILITY OF MALTA.—QUESTION.

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HC Deb 15 May 1876 vol 229 c670 670

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether it is true that the nobility of Malta were not permitted to present an address to the Prince of Wales on his arrival in Malta, and that for this reason they refrained from taking part in the reception of His Royal Highness; and, whether Her Majesty's Government will make an inquiry on the subject, with a view to give satisfaction to the Maltese nobles? 

§ MR. J. LOWTHER

Sir, no information has as yet been received upon the subject referred to by the hon. Baronet, but inquiry will be made as to the facts of the case. 

 

1876 (3)

H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES—THE NOBILITY OF MALTA.—QUESTION.

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HC Deb 12 June 1876 vol 229 cc1667-8 1667

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, What information has been received by the Government regarding the complaint of the Maltese nobility on the occasion of the visit of the Prince of Wales to Malta? 

§ MR. J. LOWTHER

A letter has been received from the honorary secretary of the Committee of the Nobles of Malta repeating the complaint referred to by the hon. Baronet. This letter has been forwarded to the Governor, whose explanations have not yet been received. We have, however, received a despatch written by the Governor—in consequence of his attention having been drawn to a Question put to me a short time back 1668 by the hon. Baronet—in which he explains that it had been originally intended that a number of addresses should be presented to the Prince of Wales, and that a high place had been assigned to the Nobles, which accorded with their desires as to the order of precedence. His Royal Highness, however, was unable to receive more than one address in person, and consequently the arrangements in question fell through. It was then suggested that the Nobles should take a prominent part in a procession formed in honour of the Prince, but this plan they declined to carry out, as the hon. Baronet is aware. He will, however, be glad to learn that several of the Nobility dined at the Palace to meet His Royal Highness, and others were present at an evening reception, and were presented by the Governor to the Prince. I need hardly add that Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to accord all proper respect to the Nobility of Malta so far as is consistent with their obligations to the rest of the community

1876 (4)

TAXATION IN MALTA.—RESOLUTION.

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HC Deb 16 June 1876 vol 229 cc1976-89 1976

Mr. POTTER

Sir, according to the Notice I have given, I beg to call the attention of the House to the Taxation at present levied in Malta; and to move the following Resolution:— That, in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient in policy and mischievous as an example to other Nations on the shores of the Mediterranean, to continue to levy ten shillings a quarter on wheat imported into the island of Malta, and other high Duties of a protective character on grain and cattle. My attention was first called to this subject when in Rome last year, and when I was discussing the question of our new Commercial Tariff with Italy. From an Italian point of view, the Maltese Tariff appeared altogether inconsistent with English professions of Free Trade principles, and was calculated to do harm as an example, particularly when the Italians were called upon by England to adopt a policy so different. By a Return laid before the House of Commons in August, 1875, it appears that the main feature of the Maltese Tariff is a 1977 tax of 10s. per salma (7¾ bushels) on wheat, and similar duties of a protective character on other grain. There is likewise a tax of 10s. per head on imported cattle, and a considerable duty on light wines and on oil. Fully one half of the revenue, or abont £85,000, is raised on corn, wine, and oil; in fact, on the necessaries of the people. It appears to me to be an entirely false principle, especially in the case of Malta, which is so densely populated. After reading this Return, I put a Question to the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies; and his Answer appeared to me so unsatisfactory that I placed the present Notice on the Paper. I was not, however, prepared for the larger question, which involves the whole system of the English government of Malta. The hon. Gentleman spoke of Malta being a fortress, and drew a parallel between it and Gibraltar. I wish he could have carried out that parallel and told me that Malta was a free port like Gibraltar. Had such been the case, it is probable that I should not have put down my Motion. It is true, doubtless, that Valetta is a great fortress, but the islands of Malta and Gozo cover an area of 115 square miles (according to an authority now recognized in this House, Whitaker's Almanack), whilst Gibraltar is a great rock covering only 1¾square miles. The Maltese population is 150,000, whilst Gibraltar contains only 25,000, including the garrison. Malta and Gozo produce a considerable quantity of grain, on which a protective duty of more than 20 per cent is levied in favour of the Maltese landowner. To show the anomaly of the Maltese Tariff, I am told that in the spring of 1875, 10,000 tons of new potatoes were sent to the London market, which so completely cleared the market in Malta that the inhabitants and garrison were obliged to draw their supplies, on which a considerable import duty was levied, from foreign countries. In reference to the Maltese Tariff, it must be remembered that it was enacted when England was Protectionist, in the year 1837, nine years before the repeal of the Corn Laws. Protectionist England was clearly responsible for what was done, as Malta had no representative institutions whatever at that time. It is not probable that Free Trade England, after 1846, 1978 would even have sanctioned such a Tariff. Malta has been in the possession of England since 1800–76 years; and it had previously enjoyed a certain amount of representation. But it was not until 1849 that England gave it any sort of representation. In 1849, a Council was formed to assist the Governor, who acts as President, consisting of 18 Members, 10 official and 8 elected, the official Members being bound to vote with the Governor. That is the present system; and practically the Governor has the power to do what he chooses. I am not going to urge a full and fair representation of the people such as in England. It may not be suited to the present condition of Malta. Malta, as a fortress, is of first-rate importance to England, and military necessities must be the first consideration. But I hold that every liberty consistent with these necessities should be conceded to the people; and if the Government must, to some extent, be despotic, that despotism should be enlightened and worthy of England. Such a heresy and anomaly as a bread tax should not be continued, and the initiative of some other alternative tax must rest with the Government, who can, if they choose, having all the power, levy a tax on property and income, and make Malta a free port like Gibraltar. There can be no reason why municipal rights and self-government in local matters should not be conceded. From information which I have received from Malta, I find that it is desired to have a civilian instead of, or in addition to, a military Governor. On this point I express no opinion; but I hope that every reasonable wish of the inhabitants will meet with a favourable consideration. I am told by some in England that the Maltese are disloyal to the British Government. If this be so, which I trust it is not, there must be some grievous fault on our side. A wise and enlightened policy on the part of England should bind the interests and inclinations of 150,000 Maltese to us; and that wisdom and enlightenment the Maltese have a right to claim at our hands. I am fully aware that it maybe said this is a small question to bring before the House of Commons. But I firmly believe that the association of the name of England with a policy of retrogression on the subject of Free Trade never can 1979 be of small importance. In conclusion, I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice. 

§ MR. ANDERSON

Sir, in rising to second the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Potter), which I do with great pleasure, I must also express some regret that his Resolution had not been of a broader character, because it appears to me that, though my hon. Friend has decidedly hit upon a blot, still the iniquitous bread tax which he denounces is only one of the symptoms of a deeper disease in the administration of Malta, the real cause of the evil being a Government entirely despotic and irresponsible to the people governed. We have held the island since 1800, previous to which there was a Consiglio Popolare, which ensured some approach to popular government, but under our rule that entirely vanished, till in 1849, under Letters Patent, a Council was instituted consisting of 18 Members, of whom the Military Governor, along with other 9, are official, and 8 are elected, and in this way the official element at any time swamps the elective. But even the elected Members are only the representatives of a very narrow constituency, as I believe the franchise is equivalent to an £8 ownership or a £40 occupancy, and there are only about 2,300 electors in a population of 150,000. The natural result of this state of matters is bad government. The military and official elements everywhere override the civilian, the people are treated with disrespect or indifference, and even the native nobility, dating from as old as the Norman Conquest, is nowhere. I propose to give a few illustrations of the bad government of which I have spoken. The bread tax, of which the hon. Member for Rochdale has just spoken, is one of them. He has told us that it was imposed in 1837; but he omitted to tell us that, in its imposition, there was a stipulation that it should be used only "for purposes of unquestionable public utility." Now, it appears that this has been interpreted to mean utility to the town of Valetta only, and the money that is raised generally, is expended locally, in decorating Valetta and making it a healthy and pleasant place of residence for the garrison and the officials. I am informed that about £60,000 has been spent on an opera 1980 house, about £40,000 on a cemetery, the corridors of the Governor's palace have been lately paved with costly marble, half the cost of an extension of the harbour for the British fleet—some £100,000—and £6,000 a-year for lighting the streets of Valetta, while the smaller towns are not allowed the cost of a paraffin lamp. There are no municipalities and no local authorities, so that outside Valetta local government is entirely neglected. There is no attempt to check mendicity, and the schools are neglected. There is one good point about the schools—they are cheap, the fees are almost nominal, but unfortunately along with that the education is bad. Out of 28,000 children of school age—five to fifteen—only 7,400 are at school, and, even after our rule of three quarters of a century, there is little provision for teaching our language. Only in the higher schools is it required, and at the primary schools only about 800 children are subjected to even a pretence of learning it. Yet another instance of misrule. Lord Cardwell, on the 19th September, 1864, sent a despatch instructing the local government that "no money Vote was to be passed against the opinion of the elected members." But that despatch has just been set at nought in the most flagrant manner. It seems the Chief Secretary wanted his salary raised from £1,000 to £1,300; so having got the consent of Lord Cardwell, he moved it in the Council on the 23rd February last; and notwithstanding that every one of the elected members opposed it—the whole 8 voting against it—the official members carried the increase by a majority of 1, that one being actually the vote of the Chief Secretary himself. It seems to me that open corruption could not go much further than this; and when such an act can be done openly and unblushingly, what may not be suspected of more secret acts? It is even alleged that justice can hardly be had, if that justice happens to be invoked against an official. Sir Adrian Dingli, the Crown Advocate, has held his office for 23 years, during which he has appointed all the Judges and heads of Departments, and has concentrated in his own hands pretty much the whole power in the island. With so long a tenure of office it could hardly be otherwise, and to a certain extent this is the 1981 case with the permanent officials in our Departments at home. The Governor having only a five years' term of office, knows and can do little. If there is an appeal to the Governor, he refers it to the Crown Advocate. If there is an appeal to the Chief Secretary, he also refers it to the Crown Advocate. If the appeal be to the Secretary of State at home, the Crown Advocate writes the despatch that accompanies the appeal; and if the appeal be to the Law Courts, again the Crown Advocate appears and defends the Government—that is himself—before Judges who have been appointed by himself. Now I do not say that wrong is actually done under all that; there maybe no wrong done—but the circumstances indicate a system under which wrong is possible, and therefore suspicion is warranted. I believe that Malta, if well governed, would be a very flourishing place. I understand its imports from England come to near £1,000,000 sterling annually, those from other countries only a tenth of that. I understand that about 4,500 steamers touch there annually, and I do not doubt that if the suggestion of my hon. Friend, for making Malta a free port, were adopted, it would soon become a great entrepôt of trade. At present its revenue, as regards the amount, is in a satisfactory state. It appears to be about £170,000, while the expenditure for the coming year is estimated at about £160,000, leaving a surplus of £10,000, besides which there is a sum of about £9,000 invested in Consols, derived from some former land sales and held to meet any pressing emergency. Malta pays the whole of the military Governor's salary of £5,000 a-year, and besides that I believe it keeps up a regiment of fencibles. When a few days ago I asked the Under Secretary for the Colonies, if Government had considered the policy of appointing a civilian Governor, and would do so on the expiry of the present appointment in June, 1877, he said—"No, they would not change, because Malta must be considered as a great fortress, where we keep British troops." But, Sir, that fortress and those troops are not kept there for Maltese purposes, but for national ones; and I question the fairness to Malta of having a highly-paid military Governor and making Malta pay his whole salary. In my opinion the Governorship ought to be 1982 divided, both salary and duties. Let there be a military Governor to look after national interests and paid for by us, and also a civilian Governor to look after Maltese administration and paid for by Malta. Were that done, the interests of the people would be looked after as they are not at present, and a great deal of the improper expenditure would be saved. Besides that there ought to be local rating for purely local purposes in Valetta as elsewhere, and if these changes were not enough to get quit of the bread tax, there should be a change to direct taxation, exactly as we, in 1846, adopted the income tax in order to abolish the Corn Laws, the best thing Great Britain ever did for her own prosperity. My hon. Friend has pointed out the iniquity of the Maltese bread tax; it amounts to a farthing on every pound of bread; and, as the poor are the great consumers of bread, it falls with the greatest hardship on the poor. A man's consumption of bread does not increase as his wealth increases, but rather the contrary, and on no principle of justice can such a tax be defended. Even the Crown Advocate of Malta, in defending his Financial Statement the other day, was obliged to admit that it was "a very ugly tax," though, in some measure, he tried to justify it on the old exploded fallacy that wages were regulated by the price of food, and therefore that dear bread assured higher wages. It would be insulting the common sense of the House of Commons even to argue against that fallacy, and, in truth, the only ground on which the tax can be in any way justified is the difficulty of arranging for a substitute. That difficulty might, I think, be overcome under a better form of government, that is with the military and civil rule separated, the constitution of the Council changed, and an enlarged constituency to give that civil rule a more truly representative character. But as Government seem to have decided against present change, there is another proposal which I would urge upon them, and it is one that, in many other matters, they have shown great readiness to adopt. Let them send out a Royal Commission to inquire into the civil administration of Malta; and I feel confident that the result of that inquiry will show the necessity of some such changes as I have pointed out. 

1983

§ Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient in policy, and mischievous as an example to other Nations on the shores of the Mediterranean, to continue to levy ten shillings a quarter on wheat imported into the island of Malta, and other high Duties of a protective character on grain and cattle,"—(Mr. Potter,) —instead thereof. 

§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." 

§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF said, he had passed many years of his life in the Mediterranean and at Malta, and would remind the House that Malta voluntarily undertook to pay the expenses of the Government, which he thought very moderate. The corn tax was no doubt, as it had been called, a very "ugly" tax, and one that it was impossible to defend; but in a small community like Malta it was exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to raise revenue by direct taxation, which would cause greater discontent among the population than the present system, bad as that might be. When he was Chief Secretary at Corfu, under the late Sir Henry Storks, they were anxious to reform the system of taxation in the Ionian Islands, and appointed a Commission to investigate the matter; but it was found to be perfectly impossible to raise anything by direct taxation. Therefore, with every desire to see a better system of finance in Malta, he knew how difficult it would be to have there anything but a system of indirect taxation, especially as a great part of the inhabitants of Malta were a seafaring population. He felt certain that if the hon. Member for Glasgow were to go to Malta, and examine for himself into the local conditions of Malta, he would see how difficult it was to have anything but that existing system of taxation. As to the present system of government in Malta, it was that recommended by the late Sir George Cornewall Lewis, who was one of the Commissioners sent out to inquire into the subject, and the Maltese were quite satisfied with our rule. With regard to the increase of the salary paid to the Chief Secretary of the Governor, that increase did not involve any addition to the taxes 1984 paid by the people of Malta. The Chief Secretary for several years received £1,000 a-year. This year the Governor thought it right to increase his salary. The Governor had a private secretary, who received£300 a-year. The Governor gave up the private secretary and added £300 to the salary of the Chief Secretary. 

§ Sir GEORGE BOWYER , in contradiction of a statement that the people of Malta were disloyal, said they were thoroughly loyal. Although, no doubt, there was a small revolutionary party, they were of no importance, and they only served to bring into more prominent relief the feelings of the majority of the population. He trusted that the time would come when the financial condition of the island would render it possible to deal with the question raised by the Motion, but he did not see what the present Government could do with it. It was a question which would be debated much more appropriately in the Council of Malta than in Parliament. The present Constitution of Malta was thoroughly unsatisfactory. Much might have been done for ameliorating the state of the population had not military concerns engrossed the attention of the Government of Malta. In the Council of Malta there were eight persons who represented the people of Malta, and there were nine persons who held official positions in the island under the Government, and who were bound to vote as the Governor chose. Moreover, the Governor himself had a vote. Therefore the Executive Government could carry everything their own way, and the Constitution was a mere mockery and delusion. This condition of affairs had caused great discontent. Those who represented the population ought surely to have a majority, even if it was only a majority of one, and he trusted that something would be done to satisfy the people of Malta that those who represented them should have a due preponderance on all matters relating to taxation in the island and to the expenditure of money. With regard to the increase of the Chief Secretary's salary, he observed that the salary of the Judge, who was a very able man, was only £600 a-year, and the salary of the Queen's Advocate was £600 a-year. The Chief Secretary had the highest salary in the island, except the Governor. The people 1985 of Malta had a right to derive some benefit from the abolition of the office of private secretary. The private secretary was disposed of, he (Sir George Bowyer) assumed, because his services were not required. The elected members of the Council who represented the taxpayers ought to have had an opportunity of deciding on that matter. On a recent occasion, the nobility of Malta had met with anything but proper treatment, and he thought they ought to look with favour on the people of Malta, and that their complaints should be listened to with respect, the more so as they were under a military, and not a civil administration. It should be remembered that the Maltese aristocracy was very ancient. 

§ Mr. J. LOWTHER said, that no apology was necessary, for he (Mr. Lowther) should be the last person to call in question the propriety of his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Potter) bringing this subject under their attention. But although his hon. Friend had brought forward the subject of which he had given Notice and confined himself to it, other hon. Gentlemen had, very naturally perhaps, taken the opportunity of travelling very far beyond the terms of the Notice originally given. His hon. Friend having stated that the revenues of Malta were derived almost exclusively from indirect sources, it would probably be convenient to the House to point out briefly what the facts were. The population of Malta was set down roughly at about 150,000. The estimated expenditure for the past year was £160,000. Of that sum £40,000 was revenue derived from the rent of land; and that was an item which in no way fell on the bulk of the population, as it was paid by the occupiers. Upwards of £6,000 was derived from interest of Consols and other Stock, and £1,200 from reimbursements from the Imperial Funds. His hon. Friend would thus see that out of £160,000 required for this expenditure, about £48,000 was met from sources to which the bulk of the population in no way contributed. That left about £113,000 to be made up by general taxation. Of that amount some £52,000 was derived from sources to which his hon. Friend had more especially referred—the tax upon wheat, barley, and other grain. His hon. Friend would therefore see that the 1986 items of revenue against which he had directed his attacks formed a very considerable element of income, being two-fifths of the entire revenue of the colony. There were other items to which he had referred—namely, £3,500 for the import duty on cattle, and some £200 from a duty on horses and mules. He had shown the House that the sum of £55,000 odd was derived from those sources which were more particularly attacked in the Resolution. How did his hon. Friend propose to meet the deficiency which he would create? His hon. Friend might have followed a distinguished example offered to him not long ago, when a large remission of taxation was proposed, and no substitute sketched out. His hon. Friend had declined to follow the example, though he had adopted a course which certainly was not inspired from the source to which he just alluded. His hon. Friend suggested the imposition of an Income Tax. He confessed he was rather astonished to find his hon. Friend in 1876 advocating the imposition of a tax which his political Friends had so frequently denounced. Another source of revenue suggested as an alternative by the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion (Mr. Anderson) was the transfer from Imperial sources to local rates of a considerable item of expenditure incurred in the town of Valetta. The hon. Member for Rochdale was a zealous apostle of Free Trade, and they were all indebted to him for a valuable addition to their library. But he would point out to his hon. Friend that there would be some incongruity in English public men propounding the doctrine of Free Trade as a cardinal principle applicable in all conceivable circumstances and cases. There might be some incongruity, for instance, in advocating that doctrine on the shores of the Mediterranean, while a few miles distant a different system was upheld under British rule. He therefore thought his hon. Friend might easily convince himself that Free Trade, though advantageous in certain cases, would not be so in exceptional ones. The English Government presided over many communities who were by no means of one mind on this subject. His hon. Friend proposed that the Government should take advantage of the majority it possessed in the Council to overrule the elected element, 1987 His hon. Friend, however, must be perfectly well aware that the Natives of Malta were by no means well versed in the doctrines of political economy. He would express no opinion on the subject; Her Majesty's Government were not called upon to do so. But if it was the duty of the Government to constitute themselves the champions of Free Trade, and force it on every community over the destiny of which they were called to preside, what reception, he would ask, would such a policy be likely to meet with in Canada or Melbourne, for example. The hon. Member for Glasgow, in seconding the Amendment, had suggested that a civil as well as a military Governor should be appointed for Malta. He might, however, remind the House that Malta was not only a colony of some importance, but that it was also an important fortress, and the question, therefore, would be how far the appointment of a dual government would conduce to the military efficiency of the fortress. The subject the hon. Member for Glasgow would doubtless himself admit to be one of some difficulty, which Her Majesty's Government would be justified in considering before arriving at a decision with regard to it. Looking at the subject abstractedly, he confessed that he could see no objection to the appointment of a civil Governor, provided such an appointment would be consistent with the military efficiency of the fortress; but it was the opinion of competent authorities that the retention of the present system was more likely to maintain that efficiency than the scheme of the hon. Member for Glasgow would be if it were carried into effect. Some 30 years ago a gentleman whose name was not unknown to many hon. Members (Mr. More O'Ferrall) was appointed Civil Governor of Malta, but that result of that appointment was not in favour of a repetition of the experiment. The hon. Member for Glasgow objected that the cost of the Governor was thrown upon the population of Malta, and suggested that the salaries of both should be defrayed out of the Imperial revenues; but he (Mr. Lowther) should have thought the Estimates were already sufficiently high, and he was therefore surprised at the suggestion of the hon. Member. 

§ MR. ANDERSON observed, that he did not intend that the Governors should 1988 receive £5,000 a-year each, but that the Military Governor should receive £3,000, and the Civil Governor £2,000 a-year. 

§ MR. J. LOWTHER doubted whether, under those circumstances, the hon. Member would find the efficiency of either improved, and was afraid that the dual government would in the end prove far more expensive than the present system. At all events, it would certainly require great consideration on the part of Her Majesty's Government before it could be adopted. Men of great experience were opposed to such a system. The experiment had been tried in another colony some years ago, and had failed, and Sir George Cornewall Lewis expressed an opinion decidedly hostile to such an experiment. The hon. Member was wrong when he termed the government of Malta an enlightened despotism. On the contrary, the wishes of the inhabitants were most carefully considered by Her Majesty's Government, whenever they were not inconsistent with the efficiency of the fortress. It had been said that the tax was an exceptional hardship upon the working classes; but in his opinion it pressed very lightly upon the general community, while the imposition of any substitute for it would inevitably lead to great discontent. In his opinion, it would be most unwise to attempt to interfere with the fiscal arrangements which had commended themselves to the general approval of the Council. 

§ MR. RYLANDS said, he did not think that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lowther) had been very successful in his reply to the hon. Member for Rochdale. The story about such taxes pressing lightly was the familiar one which had always been urged in favour of this form of taxation, and he could not entertain the opinion that the officials of the Colonial Office, and one of the ability of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowther) himself, could not devise a substitute for the taxes of which the hon. Member for Rochdale complained. He did not think that any fair parallel could be drawn between Malta and Canada, because in the former there was no popular representation. 

§ MR. MUNTZ said, he was of opinion that the duties referred to were not imposed for the purpose of Protection, but were mere fiscal regulations for 1989revenue purposes. The House had at present no satisfactory information with regard to the taxation of Malta; and he thought that those who proposed a change in the existing system ought to show how the change was to be effected. With regard to the question of imposition of income tax on the Maltese, he considered that was the very last means that should be resorted to, and until he heard of some better scheme of taxation than that which at present existed he could not vote for the Motion of his hon. Friend. 

§ Question put. 

§ The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 84: Majority 46

 

1876 (5)

QUESTION.

Page retrieved: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1876/jun/16/question

HL Deb 16 June 1876 vol 229 c1965 1965

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he is willing to produce the correspondence which has recently passed through the Colonial Office in reference to certain grievances complained of by the Nobility of Malta, more particularly a letter addressed to the Secretary of State by that body? 

THE EARL OF CARNARVON , in reply, said, he would be very happy to give his noble Friend any extracts from the Correspondence to which he had alluded in his Question if he would move for it in the usual manner. He could not promise to produce all the Correspondence, but he would lay on the Table all that was material and that could be given. He was not aware that his noble Friend wished for further Correspondence relating to the suggestions made for the better government of the Island. However, if his noble Friend would specify what he wished to have he would look into the Papers and produce all that he could. 

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH said, he had understood that some communications had been addressed by the Nobility of Malta to the noble Earl alleging certain complaints against what passed upon a recent occasion, and that there were other matters contained in the despatch which might be produced. He would be glad to have the Correspondence relating to all that had taken place. 

THE EARL OF CARNARVON said, he would look through all the Papers at the Colonial Office, and would then tell his noble Friend what he could lay on the Table. 

 

1877

QUESTION.

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HL Deb 14 June 1877 vol 234 cc1755-6 1755

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH asked the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he will lay on the Table of the House the Correspondence that has passed since the close of the last Session of Parliament to the present date between the Colonial Office, the Governor of the Island of Malta, and the members of the Maltese Nobility, relative to certain grievances of which the last-named complained?

THE EARL OF CARNARVON said, that the reason why Papers on this subject had not as yet been presented, was because the Correspondence to which the Question of his noble Friend referred had not been completed. He was unable to say definitely when he would be able to produce that Correspondence; but he hoped that in a month or six weeks, the matter would have reached such a stage that he could lay the Papers on the Table. The question upon which they bore arose out of the recent visit of the Prince of Wales to Malta and the principal point at issue was whether the Maltese Nobility should, upon such an occasion, walk in public procession before or after the Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce. Upon this par- 1756 titular point he had given a decision which, he hoped, would be so far satisfactory to the Maltese Nobility; and that was, that he agreed to their taking precedence, on any occasion of the kind, of the Chamber of Commerce, in accordance with a course which had been sanctioned by Sir Henry Stokes when he was Governor of Malta. A list of those who claimed the privilege in question had been furnished; but it gave rise to questions which a Commission—of which two learned Judges were among the Members—had been appointed to determine, and the inquiry was now proceeding. Their Report when received would be included in the documents to be produced. He was extremely desirous that the Maltese Nobility should be declared entitled to privileges which they very naturally highly valued. 

 

1878 (1)

QUESTION.

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HC Deb 21 January 1878 vol 237 c255 255

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER asked the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether and when the Report of Mr. Rowsell on the Revenue and Finance is to be presented to Parliament; and, whether the Report of the Commission of Judges on the Maltese Nobility and their Claims has been received by the Colonial Office, and when it will be laid upon the Table of the House?

§ MR. J. LOWTHER

Sir, Mr. Rowsell's Report upon the taxation of Malta will be presented to Parliament before long; but it is not in my power to name a precise date, as the subject is a large and difficult one, and Her Majesty's Government desire to consider it fully before publishing any Papers. The Report from the Commission on the claims of the Maltese nobility was received on December 29; but as it did not appear to deal with all the points requiring decision, we have requested the Commissioners to furnish a supplementary Report. It is, therefore, impossible to say when the Reports can be presented to Parliament; but no great delay is anticipated

 

1878 (2)

QUESTIONS.

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HC Deb 15 March 1878 vol 238 cc1397-8 1397

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, When the Report of Mr. Rowsell on the Taxation and Finances of Malta will be laid upon the Table; and, when the Report of the Commission regarding the Maltese Nobility will be laid upon the Table? 

MR. JAMES also asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether there is any truth in the statement made in the "Daily News" of Thursday, March 14th, that the contents of Mr. Rowsell's Report have been made known in Malta, and that, in consequence, an organized attempt to prevent the abolition of the Food Taxes has been set on foot, with the cognizance of the Government officials? 

§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS - BEACH

Sir, Mr. Rowsell's Report on the taxation and finances of Malta will be laid on the Table as soon as any decision upon it has been arrived at; and, as I hope to be able to deal with it in a few days from this time, I trust its production will not long be delayed. The Report of the Commission regarding the Maltese nobility is now in the printer's hands; but I find that Lord Carnarvon asked for a supplementary Report on the subject, which has not yet been received. When it arrives, and has been considered, both Reports will be presented together. With respect to the Question of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead (Mr. James), I have no confirmation of the statement referred to, and I have heard nothing of any organized attempt 1398 to prevent the abolition of the Food Taxes in Malta, with the cognizance of Government officials. So far as I am aware, Mr. Rowsell's Report was only privately communicated to two gentlemen, whose position in the island precludes any idea that they could have published a confidential document. I need hardly say that it would be quite contrary to my wish that any such matters should be published elsewhere without being at the same time communicated to Parliament. I will make inquiry on the point; but if the hon. Member's object be the early publication of this Report, my reply to the hon. and learned Member for Wexford will show that this will be attained without further action

 

1878 (3)

QUESTION. OBSERVATIONS.

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HL Deb 05 July 1878 vol 241 cc850-1 850

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH asked Her Majesty's Government, Whether there would be any objection to lay on the Table of the House the Protest of the Committee of Maltese Nobles, which was forwarded to the Government on the appointment of a Commission to examine the claims of the Nobility of Malta, as well as the Correspondence that passed between the Commissioners and the Permanent Committee of the Nobles? The noble Viscount said, that having brought the subject before the House on a former occasion, he had now very little to add. It would be remembered, that two or three years ago, a strong feeling existed amongst the Maltese Nobility with regard to their position in society, particularly on public occasions, and the matter culminated on the visit of the Prince of Wales to the island. The subject was referred to the Government, and the then Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote to the Governor to appoint a Commission to inquire into the grievance complained of by the Nobles. He had not one word to say against the step taken by the noble Earl, except as to the constitution of the Commission. As to the character and talent of the gentlemen selected he would not say anything; but he thought that in a small island like Malta, where those matters were so much talked about in society, some exception might be taken to two of the members of the Commission, especially as considerable feeling had been evinced as to the relative position of the Nobles and the Judges. A protest was made against two of the Commissioners, and the question which he asked the Government was, whether there would be any objection to produce the Protest? While the Commission was sitting, some Correspondence passed between the Permanent Committee of the Nobles and the Commissioners; and he would like to be informed by the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies whether that Correspondence could also be presented to the House? 

EARL CADOGAN, in reply to the first part of the noble Viscount's Question, begged to state that no protest of any 851 kind had been received by the Government with reference to the matter, and certainly not with respect to the composition of the Commission. As the noble Viscount was aware, the Report of the Commission had already been laid on the Table of the House, He might say that a Petition was addressed to the Queen, regarding the place of honour due to the Nobility of Malta. It was forwarded to England by the then Governor of Malta, and was included in the Papers which were presented to the House of Commons some time ago. That was the only document in the nature of a Protest in the possession of the Government; but if the noble Viscount wished to have it, and would move for it, he would lay it on the Table of their Lordships' House. 

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH said, the Protest was addressed to the Governor of Malta. 

EARL CADOGAN remarked, that it was not remitted to the Home Government. 

THE EARL OF CARNARVON would take the opportunity of answering one of the remarks which had been made by the noble Viscount (Viscount Sidmouth). The noble Viscount had commented on the composition of the Commission. The Commission was not appointed by himself as the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, but by the Governor of Malta. He had no hesitation, however, in saying that he believed the Commission was a fit and proper tribunal to inquire into the case. Two of the gentlemen selected were Judges who had spent the best part of their lives in the island. They were men of high character and great experience, and it would have been difficult to have found men better qualified for the task. He was not sorry to be able to bear his testimony to the patience with which the Commissioners conducted the Inquiry, and the ability which characterized their Report. 

 

1879

RESOLUTION.

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HC Deb 01 August 1879 vol 248 cc1898-918 1898

MR. PLIMSOLL, in rising to call the attention of the House to the condition of Malta; and to move— That, in the opinion of this House, the cost of maintaining the Police, and of draining, repairing, lighting, cleaning, and watering the streets, &c. in Malta, should he paid out of a rate upon house and other property (upon which, at present, no rates or taxes of any kind whatever are levied), and not, inter alia, out of a tax upon wheat and other grain for food, and upon potatoes and other vegetables, which, as a matter of fact, actually takes more per head from the very poor who live in cellars than it takes per head from those who live in the best houses in the streets and squares; and the House is therefore further of opinion that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to take such steps as may he necessary to secure the abolition of the taxes on food in Malta on and from the 1st day of January 1881; said, that the Resolution embodied his whole case, and was in strict accordance with the facts, the statements it contained being rather under than over the real facts. They referred to a case of injustice and hardship, which was so gross in its circumstances, so cruel in its incidence, and yet so easily capable of remedy, that he had great hope it would not survive its exposure to the House. The Maltese people, although oppressively, were very lightly taxed. The whole of their external defence was paid for by a contribution of £5,000 to the Imperial Exchequer, or about 8d. per head of the population; whereas we paid £1 per head for the maintenance of our Army and Navy. The total taxation per head of the population for all purposes was only 13s. 7d., as against at least four times that sum in this country. And yet, from the mode in which the taxes were levied, they were paid with far less ease than the heavier taxes in this country; and as to three-fourths of the people, they were crushing in their effects. No rates or taxes of any kind were levied directly, except about £3,000 raised by licences to wine and spirit dealers. Much the larger portion of the taxation of the country—£62,827—was derived from the taxes upon wheat and solid food; £41,624 from beer, wines, and spirits; £1,773 from oil and vinegar; for the rest, the income consisted of rents and harbour dues. An examination of the tariff showed that the term "solid 1899 food" was very wide, and included wheat, barley, and corn of all kinds, besides lentils, peas, and beans; and, lest the poor should take to vegetables in their inability to afford even the inferior kinds of corn, there was also a tax on potatoes and other vegetables. No more astonishing way of raising an income had ever been discovered, though the case of Malta was somewhat analogous to that of the Ionian Islands, where advantage having been taken of our English ignorance of the language, it had now and then happened that extreme severity had marked the proceedings of the authorities. In a Parliamentary Paper of the year 1878, Mr. Rowsell had said, that the Maltese upper and middle classes paid 10s. 10d. per head per annum in taxes, while the working classes contributed as much as 15s. 7d. The incidence of the wheat tax was such, that the richer classes paid 5s. and the poorer 10s. per head per annum. The beggars paid more per head than those who rode in carriages. People who swept the streets, and went without shoes and stockings, paid more per head for the making of those streets and the sweeping and cleaning than the noblemen and gentlemen who swept past them, in their carriages. An Englishman might imagine, judging from the absolute amount of taxation per head, that it was so trifling that it could not possibly have the crushing effect complained of by the Natives; but it was to be remembered that wages were very low in Malta, the daily average being, perhaps, not much more than 1s. Mr. Rowsell's schedule of wages showed that to be the case; and the American Consul, who had long personal experience of the Island, had mentioned that the great number of the poor was the effect of the high price of bread. Consequently, the amount of mendicity in Malta was something appalling. The poor seldom had more than the bare means of relieving their hunger, and they had the additional misery of living in dwellings that were utterly unfit for habitation. He could speak on that point from his own personal observation, as, in his curiosity to know how men could possibly live on the current small wages, he had visited the houses of the poorer classes. The whole city was built upon white freestone, making what miners called "good roof," and advantage had been taken of the 1900 material to sink deep cellars under the houses, so that one might see palatial piles of buildings with cavernous cellars, tier upon tier underneath, the lowest of which might be fully 40 feet below the level of the street. These places were damp, unventilated, foul—dreadfully foul—and the stench appalling. He spoke only of what he had seen, and he believed that at least a quarter of the city was underground. It would easily be supposed that such damp, ill-ventilated, and foul lodgings had their effect on the death-rate. That it had a deleterious effect was proved by the fact that the Governor had appointed a Commission of six medical men to inquire into the subject, the death-rate being 45 per 1,000, although Malta, per se, was naturally a healthy place. Dr. Giulio, in his Report, had said that those who had seen only the best parts of Malta could form no adequate notion of the bad hygienic state of the other parts. In particular, the drainage was exceedingly defective, and so highly charged was the atmosphere of many of the houses, that the inmates ran the risk of being poisoned by hydro-sulphide of ammonia. If any other evidence was needed as to the deplorable condition to which the poorer Maltese had been reduced by excessive taxation, it would be found in a Petition that had been presented to the House, and which recited "the heartrending misery which prevails already among the poor." Now, he wished to know why that misery had been inflicted, incurred as it was for the purpose of paving and lighting the streets, draining the town, and doing many other things, simply, as he believed, for the benefit of the upper classes? In very many cases the proceeds of the taxation seemed to be misapplied—as, for instance, in the maintenance of a University, where the sons of the rich received a semi-gratuitous education, paying only in fees, at the rate of 2s. 6d. monthly per family, the sum of £248 a-year, whilst £4,397 came from the people's food; and the building, at a very considerable cost, of an opera-house. He might mention that the opera-house had been built on land belonging to the community, and that £48,000 had been spent on its erection. On a careful examination of the expenditure upon the Island, he found that a sum of £71,000 was spent which in 1901 England, or elsewhere, would be paid out of local taxation. Why, he desired to know, should there be no rates or taxes in Malta? There were no better cared-for or more copiously watered streets than those in Valetta—equal in all respects to the best looked after streets in the West End of London or the fashionable districts of Brighton; and all this was done without any householders' tax; but it should be clearly understood, out of the taxes on solid, food. He should like to know why the people who lived in good houses in the town should not pay for that which cost money, and which they enjoyed? In no other place in the world with which he was acquainted were these things, as well as gas, police, sewage, obtained without the payment of a single sixpence by those whom they chiefly benefited—the householders; and he might add that it seemed also that these existing evils were only coincident with our occupation of the Island; for previously to that the owners of property had to pay their share of the general taxation. Now, a rate of 2s. 6d. on the house property would, according to Mr. Rowsell, give £40,000 a-year, and if the rate were made general it would realize £70,000 a-year, which would enable the Government of the Island to abolish the taxes on food and the harbour dues, so as to make Valetta a free port. Mr. Rowsell said that the upper classes in Malta had an "hysterical objection to pay money;" but if they had money's worth, why should they have it paid for out of the most miserable class of the population? It was no doubt said that if the taxation were altered it would affect the selling value of property; but even if this were so, it only showed that the owners of property had hitherto derived more than they ought to do from it, because they were allowed by our neglect to rob the poor. If the value of property were diminished by a rate, Malta by being better governed would enjoy greater prosperity than it had ever enjoyed. It was said that nine-tenths of the people were perfectly content with things as they were; but it was impossible to suppose that people would be content to be robbed in this way. It was said that no public meetings had been held to complain of bad administration; but the people were threatened, and warned not to hold public meetings. 1902 It appeared to him that the upper classes were robbers of helpless infancy and stealers from street beggars. Malta had two cardinal wants—the first was indicated in the terms of his Motion, and the second was that of a Governor whose sole business should be the good government of the population of the Island. If Malta were made an absolutely free port, the number of ships that would call there would be very considerably increased, and there would be an increase of work for the population of the Island. Malta, alone of all the Colonies that he knew, owed absolutely nothing. It had £80,000 in the Funds, and the estates of the Knights of Malta, which successive English Governors had recognized as State property, were worth not less than £1,300,000. If there were a Governor who would put the saddle on the right horse, he might, by seeing that the population of the Island was fairly and justly dealt with and that the latent industries of the country were developed, initiate a period of prosperity the like of which had never been known before in the Island. He (Mr. Plimsoll) thought he had proved the existence of a grievous wrong and a terrible injustice, that the remedy was easy, and that the objections were selfish and frivolous. But with energy and determination they could easily be overcome. The injustice was so terrible that he hoped the House would lift the burden off the shoulders of those unfortunate people. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution which stood in his name. 

§ MR. ISAAC, in seconding the Resolution, said, he would not offer any apology rising to support the hon. Member for Derby, nor would he follow him through all his remarks. He (Mr. Plimsoll) had, no doubt, been carried away by his excessive kind-heartedness and sympathetic feelings; and although he (Mr. Isaac) could not go to the same extent, he considered the Resolution was one which not only deserved, but demanded the consideration of Parliament. His hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) had referred, in the course of his speech, in terms of condemnation to the action of a gentleman with whom he (Mr. Isaac) had been acquainted for many years, General Straubenzee. He would tell his hon. Friend that a better man did not exist in. the British Army than the gentleman whom he had charged, he had almost 1903 said, with crime. He would ask his hon. Friend whether the fault did not rest with the laws the Governor had to put into force, rather than with any action of the man himself? The points which ought to be considered were the appointment of a civil, in addition to a military Governor, the re-adjustment of taxation, the sanitary condition of the whole Island, and the education of its people. The re-adjustment of taxation was imperative, because the present system pressed unequally on the people. The poor and working classes were heavily taxed—the idle, the rich, and the noble paid, comparatively, no taxes—the duties levied upon grain, food, and alcoholic liquors were, indeed, a serious hardship upon those who were compelled to pay them. With regard to the first point, it might be said that no change could be made which would be satisfactory to the people. We had heard that said of other places greater and smaller than Malta; but had always found, when the changes had been made, that they proved to be beneficial, not only to those who had at one time been oppressed, but equally so to those who had been considered oppressors. Considerable changes had been made in the government of the Island, both before it was ceded to this country and since the cession. In 1800, when the Island was taken by this country, we had to inaugurate some system of government. After 1814 we made great changes. In 1816 a change was made; in 1834 another change; in 1838 another; and in 1849 the Constitution of the Island was entirely altered. Not taking his information from what had been said in the House by the hon. Member for Derby, or from the letters he had written, but from persons who had been employed in the government of the Island, or had resided there for many years, he believed that though his hon. Friend had put his case very strongly, he had not exceeded the bounds of reasonable complaint as to the way in which Malta had been governed, and the unfortunate poor of the Island had been treated. During the last half-century we had made great, strides in carrying Free Trade principles into operation in this country; we had removed from the edibles used by the poor all taxation; and he saw no reason why, according to justice and common sense, we should not 1904 do the same for the poor of the Island of Malta. As to the necessity for the re-adjustment of taxation, it could be proved that the lower classes in Malta were much more heavily taxed than the nobles and other classes. The principal kinds of food which the people had to subsist upon were bread, macaroni, with occasionally a few olives, a fish sandwich, and a little garlic. He had been told by a gentleman who had lived four years in the place that in the old capital of the Island, with over 3,000 inhabitants, they killed butcher's meat only one day in the week, and the demand for it was so small that they had to send the greater part to Valetta to be disposed of. The people were, therefore, obliged to use grain and those things which were taxed by the laws of the Island. That was a system of taxation which ought not to exist in any Dependency or Colony of the Crown. The question had also been mooted with regard to a land tax. What country in the Empire did not pay a land-tax, or a house tax, and a large number of other taxes? Why should Malta be the only place in Her Majesty's dominions which did not pay the land tax? He thought there would be no difficulty in raising a fair and reasonable rate of taxation for Imperial purposes from all the property in the Island, and that these changes, if carried, would be for the benefit of all parties, and were not without precedent. He believed that if Her Majesty's Ministers were to take this matter into consideration, so that some great reform was made, they would do that which would redound to their credit as much as anything they had done in the course of their Administration. In the first place, then, he would abolish the tax upon food, and supply the deficiency by a tax upon the property of the Church, and all other property, which at present enjoyed an immunity from taxation. He would, too, have the sanitary condition of the dwellings of the poor better ventilated and drained. The necessity for this was more than proved by the statement made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Plimsoll), from the experience he had gained on the spot; but if those statements needed additional arguments to impress them on the House, he (Mr. Isaac) could state, from the best possible authority, that during the general drainage repairs in Valetta the stench from the open roads was fearful—the soil, 1905 super-saturated with, sewage and gas leakage, caused an epidemic of the measle type amongst adults, as well as children, along the whole route of the excavations, and caused the loss of many lives. Another instance of the serious effects of want of proper sanitary reforms was in 1865–6, when upwards of 200 deaths occurred amongst the inhabitants of ground Mezzanine and underground floors before any case occurred to the occupants of the proper houses. Lord Clarence Paget, when at the opening of the new Hydraulic Dock, in January, 1873, said, that according to the last Census, the population of Malta was 124,000, being about 1,200 to the square mile, and, therefore, denser than any other part of the globe; and, that what was still more striking and appalling was its rapid increase, being something like 1,000 in every year. He suggested the Maltese should colonize the shores of the Mediterranean, and particularly pointed out Cyrenica, formerly one of the principal granaries of ancient Rome. That surely and clearly proved that emigration was the only way of providing for the population; and if they had to emigrate, it must be to a place where they could speak the language of the people. He thought, then, that they might establish elementary schools in the Island, in which the people might be taught English; it was highly desirable that they should learn to speak some other language than the mixture of Italian and Arabic which was their vernacular. He should rejoice if the glory and honour of improving the condition of the Island of Malta belonged to a Conservative Government. If, instead of holding Malta for the Maltese, they regarded it as an English Colony, the effect would be to make the nobles feel they were Englishmen, and thus would be infused into the society of the Island a more truly English feeling, and a belief that it had been left, amongst other important duties, to a Conservative Government to reform the laws and the government of the important Island of Malta, that had been so long neglected by the masterly inactivity of their Liberal predecessors. 

§ Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the cost of maintaining the Police, and of draining, repairing, 1906 lighting, cleaning, and watering the streets, &c. in Malta, should be paid out of a rate upon house and other property (upon which, at present, no rates or taxes of any kind whatever are levied), and not, inter alia, out of a tax upon wheat and other grain for food, and upon potatoes and other vegetables, which, as a matter of fact, actually takes more per head from the very poor who live in cellars than it takes per head from those who live in the best houses in the streets and squares; and the House is therefore further of opinion that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government to take such steps as may be necessary to secure the abolition of the taxes on food in Malta on and from the 1st day of January 1881,—(Mr. Plimsoll,) —instead thereof.

§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question." 

MR. MAC IVER, who had the following Notice upon the Paper:— To call the attention of the House to the condition of Malta; and to move, That, with respect to local administration, no outlay of public money should take place, no taxes should be imposed, nor any law be passed, except with the consent of a majority of the elected Members of the Council of Government; said, he should not have thought that the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) ever had been in Malta, had he not seen the hon. Gentleman there. It certainly did not appear, either from his speech or from the speech of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Isaac), that they knew anything about the Island. Let him (Mr. Mac Iver) remind the House how Malta became a part of the Empire. In 1798 the Maltese bravely withstood the French and maintained, their independence, and afterwards they willingly placed themselves under British rule. Therefore, they owed something to the Maltese. The Maltese were a deeply religious Roman Catholic people, and he (Mr. Mac Iver) had a letter from their Archbishop, who was certainly not in favour of the views of the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution. For himself, having spent years of his life in Malta, and still maintaining his associations with the place, he now spoke on behalf of the Maltese; and he was supported by a Memorial from the elected Members of the Council in the views he ventured to urge. There was not the smallest pretence for saying that the elected Members of the Council did not represent the feelings of 999 out of every 1,000 of the inhabitants. Acknowledging the perfect sincerity of the hon. 1907 Member for Derby, he yet thought that hon. Gentleman was apt at times to take an exaggerated and distorted view of facts. The undisputed facts in this matter were, that the entire revenue of Malta derived from any kind of taxation was about £100,000, and that of this amount some £50,000 was raised by those taxes to which the hon. Member for Derby was opposed. The hon. Gentleman evidently thought that the whole of the deficiency in regard to that £50,000 might reasonably be recouped from a charge of some kind or other on house property. Now, the population was about 150,000, and the number of houses perhaps something like 30,000. Nine out of ten of the houses in which the people lived were rented at £2 or £3 a-year; and if they put a tax of 20s. or 30s. on each of those houses, that would be very like adding 40 or 50 per cent to the house rent which the people had hitherto paid. That was, practically, what the hon. Member's proposal came to. There were in Malta no rich persons, or not more than about half-a-dozen, and the great bulk of the revenue required to meet local needs must be obtained from the great mass of the population. The real question, therefore, was, how could that be done with the least inconvenience and distress to the Maltese people? Surely, the wishes of the people themselves ought to have some weight, and they were averse from any material change of their system, of taxation. Although a few agitators had done their best to stir up discontent, the inhabitants of the Island were not dissatisfied; they were a law-abiding, well-conducted community, who desired ever to remain a portion of the British Empire; but they did feel that sometimes the House of Commons forgot the circumstances in which the Island became a part of our Empire and did not sufficiently regard the wishes of the Maltese people. Malta enjoyed the reality of an unrestricted commerce with all parts of the Mediterranean, and was, practically, almost a free port, Customs duties being levied on only one or two articles. The general prosperity of Malta depended upon its continuing to be the cheapest port of that part of the Mediterranean; but the Free Traders had proposed changes in the finances of the Island which threatened to destroy its trade altogether, and that had been 1908 the occasion of the riots which had occurred there. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) complained that the taxation of the Island was in favour of the rich, as against the poor; but this statement was based upon imaginary data. Much stress had been laid upon the fact that extensive drainage works had been undertaken by the Government in Malta; but the truth was, that those drainage works had been executed, not for the advantage of the Maltese, but of the British Fleet and of the troops who were quartered there. The demand of the Maltese people was that, with respect to local administration, no expenditure should be incurred, that no taxes should be imposed, and that no law should be passed, except with the consent of a majority of the elected Members of the Council of Government; and, in his opinion, that was a most reasonable proposal. Malta and Cyprus were both on the high road to India—the former was over-populated, the latter was thinly-populated—and, therefore, the best thing we could do was to induce the surplus population of Malta to emigrate to Cyprus.

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER  rose to second the Amendment. 

§ MR. SPEAKER  pointed out that it had already been seconded. 

§ MR. ANDERSON said, he had expected, after listening to the first portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver), that it would be shown that his (Mr. Anderson's) hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) had no case, for he set out by promising to demolish it entirely; but after hearing the remainder of the speech, and particularly the remarkable conclusion at which the hon. Member for Birkenhead had arrived, he thought that the arguments of the hon. Member for Derby were unassailable. What was it that the hon. Member for Birkenhead proposed to do for the people of Malta? Why, his proposal would be to send them from the frying-pan into the fire. The only thing he had to offer for their good was to deport them to Cyprus. Malta, he (Mr. Anderson) believed, was hot; but no one would venture to compare it to Cyprus. The hon. Member wished to induce the people of Malta to consent to be deported from an uncomfortable Island into a still more disagreeable place. He did not suppose the hon. 1909 Member's Maltese friends would be very grateful to him for that proposal. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mac Iver) compared the proposal to impose a house tax on Malta to the Chancellor of the Exchequer adding 30 per cent to our own house tax; but the analogy was quite in another way, the present system at Malta was just as if the right hon. Gentleman had undertaken the paving and cleansing and lighting of the Metropolis, all of which were to be paid for out of the general taxation of the country. In Malta the Customs dues were used for those purposes; and, not only that, but in Valetta a University was kept up and an opera-house had also been erected, at great cost, by the same means, and it was not right that the lower classes of the Islands generally should have to provide for the maintenance of the buildings there. Malta, in fact, was made pleasant and gay, at the expense of the people, for the officials sent from England. It was complained that the poor people of Malta were taxed on food for the sake of keeping the upper classes free from taxation, and making the place in every way pleasant to them. In all the taxes which affected the poor people, they were made to pay much more heavily than the upper classes. The hon. Member for Birkenhead had questioned the figures of Mr. Rowsell, who said that, while the working class were taxed at the rate of 15s. 7d. per head, the officials and wealthier classes who had £500 or £1,000 a-year or more paid only 10s.10d.; and he had asserted there were no figures in the Report to sustain that argument. But Mr. Rowsell had figures, and these showed that there were 27,000 of the official and wealthier classes in Malta, and 112,000 poor persons whose average wages were 1s. a-day. He showed how the amount was made up, and his figures were incontestable. [Mr. MAC IVER denied there was any calculation of the kind.] He would refer the hon. Gentleman to page 15, where the calculation was clearly set out. Mr. Rowsell showed that in the matter of bread duty alone the rich class contributed 5s. and the poor class 10s. per head. The hon. Member for Birkenhead also went on to show that a tax on house property would prove inoperative, and that it would not be possible to raise the required amount in that way. But Mr. Rowsell proved to the contrary. 1910 He proved that 6d. in the pound of rental would yield £8,000 a-year; but in this country 2s.6d. was a low rate for local purposes, and that rate in Malta would yield £40,000 a-year. He (Mr. Anderson) felt that the House would accept the statements of Mr. Rowsell in preference to the opinions of the hon. Member for Birkenhead; for they showed, to the satisfaction of most hon. Members of that House, that Malta, after being for nearly a century in our possession, was about the worst-governed spot in Her Majesty's Dominions. We governed the Island not for the good of the people there, but entirely with a view to the fortress. He suggested that a civil Governor, to be paid by Malta, should be appointed, as well as the military Governor, whose salary, reduced from £5,000 to £3,000 a-year, ought to be paid by us. For the last 25 years the Government of Malta had been a dictatorship, for the military Governors had been very much under the influence of the permanent officials, and Sir Adrian Dingli was the real Dictator at Malta. Some of the Governors we sent out were very weak, and entirely in his hands. The late Governor, Sir C. Straubenzee, had been of this class, an amiable well meaning man, but as weak as water, as was proved by his conduct in the riots of last year, when he had been censured by the Colonial Secretary for allowing the mob to enter the corridors of the Palace. There was another difficulty in connection with Malta, and that was the state of the franchise. The hon. Member for Birkenhead had a Resolution on the Paper, recommending that there should be no outlay of public money, except with the consent of the majority of the elected Members of the Council—a rule that had been enforced for some time by Lord Cardwell, but had been abandoned of late years, with the result that the votes of the eight elected Members were usually swamped by those of the nine official Councillors. So flagrant was this system that in one case the casting vote of an official had made an addition to his own salary. That swamping of the elected Members' votes, however, would be a greater grievance, if the elected Members represented a larger constituency than the 2,000 persons who composed the electorate. At first sight the franchise seemed liberal enough, being based on the principle 1911 of a £4 occupancy; but it was too severely restricted by the absurd stipulation that no one should vote who did not understand English or Italian, both of which were foreign languages in Malta. In this country we sanctioned even the illiterate voter; but on the Maltese system we would not only abolish him, but require every voter to understand Welsh or Gaelic. That was a point on which reforms were urgently needed and might be very usefully introduced in Malta; as if that restriction were removed, the constituencies would be largely increased, and the Members of the Council would be more truly representative. The widening of the franchise, and the appointment of a civil Governor to attend to the civil business of the Island, were the two subjects with respect to which the Secretary of State for the Colonies would, he hoped, take immediate action. In conclusion, he would say that the lower classes, he thought, had been compelled to pay taxes which should have been put on the wealthier classes through property taxation; and he urged, in the strongest manner, that the Resolution should be adopted, and the taxes on food in Malta should cease from the 1st of January, 1881. 

§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER said, that the speech of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver) had been so comprehensive and had gone into so much useful detail that his own observations need not be long. He fully admitted the good intentions and benevolent objects of the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll), a well-known instance of which, in the case of our merchant seamen, would be familiar to the House. It had struck him, however, that the part played by the hon. Member in the present case was a little Quixotic. The circumstances of the hon. Member's Motion reminded him of the celebrated reply given by the Needy Knifegrinder in The Anti-Jacobin— Story, God bless you! I have none to tell, Sir, for, in fact, though they had heard how the Maltese were starved and ill-treated, that unhappy people had not told their own story or pleaded their own wrongs. Had the hon. Member come to the House with any Petition from them, and could he mention any public meeting that had been held in support of his 1912 views? He (Sir George Bowyer) had in his hand a pamphlet written by the hon. Member, and would ask the attention of the House to two extracts from it, which would show the exaggeration and absence of exact thought and argument that had characterized his statement. In one of those passages, he had attributed the insanitary condition of the place to the import duties on corn; in the other, he had hotly attacked the Government of the Island, of course, including in his denunciations the Secretary of State. In that second passage he had written that he had seen in London portraits of the great brigands of Palermo, and among them those of Leoni and his gang, with whom, he said, he had rather stand at the Judgment Day than with the men who had inflicted on Malta the terrible evils of which he complained. He (Sir George Bowyer) did not mean to assert that the condition of things was perfect in Malta; but he did say that, if modifications in the taxation were to be made, they ought to spring from the wishes of the people themselves, and not to be imposed on the people by the Free-traders of this country. The Maltese said they were used to the fiscal system they possessed, and that any substitutes that might be proposed for the existing taxes would be far more grievous than those in force at present. They thought their system was not one to be complained of, and they asked to be let alone. This was a very reasonable view for them to take, and he hoped the House would be disposed to accept it. Without Protection, the cultivation of cereals, which, from a military point of view, was of great importance, would probably cease altogether in the Island. He had had Maltese affairs passing through his hands for a number of years; and he believed the Government would do wisely in refusing to adopt any large scheme of alteration in the financial system of the Island, and confining themselves to the consideration of political details. He strongly deprecated the slighting manner in which the hon. Member for Derby and others had referred to the Maltese nobility. They were an ancient and honourable class, possessed of education and high attainments, and holding a distinguished position in the Island. The hon. Member for Birkenhead had pointed out what 1913 was the real defect in the mode of government in Malta—namely, the constitution of the Legislative Council. Hon. Gentlemen who wished to benefit the inhabitants would be taking a much more useful course if they applied themselves to the remedy of this political grievance. The opinions of the Representatives of the people ought to have the greatest possible weight; but their voice was stifled. The people of Malta were loyal—in fact, there were no more loyal subjects of the British Crown and they deserved great consideration. He maintained that Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus were most important to this country for military and political purposes, and it was important that we should cultivate the goodwill of the inhabitants of those places. If they were friendly to us, half the battle was gained. Although Malta was a small place, we were bound to hear its case. There was a military Governor. He was a most gallant officer, and deserved the greatest respect in a military and in every other point of view; but his chief work was the care of the garrison. A civil Governor would be employed in other ways. In Ireland we had a Lord Lieutenant and a Commander-in-chief. Why should there not be the same arrangement in Malta? The people of Malta paid £5,000 a-year out of their pockets for this Governor, who was chiefly employed as commander of the English troops. They said—"We do not think it is fair that we should have to pay the salary of a Commander-in-chief for Imperial purposes and not for the purposes of the Island." That point deserved consideration, with a view to its being remedied. 

MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY said, that it was possible to live in a place, and to come out of it, without any very accurate perception of the condition of its inner life. Now, although he had never been in the Island of Malta, he knew something of the state of things which existed there, and had no difficulty, basing his opinion even on the speeches of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver)—and he (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) was not sure that he would take the views of that hon. Member on any social or political question—and the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford (Sir George Bowyer), both of whom had lived at Malta, in 1914 coming to the conclusion that the system of taxation which prevailed in the Island was not entitled to the approval of the House. In his opinion, neither speech had touched the fringe of the question before the House. There was on the one side a great degree of penury and squalor; while upon the other there was a class who, though perhaps not rich in the sense in which people were said to be rich in this country, were well off; and yet the greater portion of the taxes of the Island were raised on the food on which the poor for the most part lived. Surely, that could not be an equitable state of things; and it was, under those circumstances, absurd, he thought, to speak of the people of Malta as being contented, with their squalor and underground cellars, in the way the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford had done, considering the abject condition in which they were placed; and he was glad his hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) had paid the Island a visit and was able to tell the House—what the official Reports did not do—the real facts of the case. He should like, he might add, to see some system of real representation established in Malta, so that reforms might be instituted from within; but by whatever means the end was effected, the present unjust—he had almost said ridiculous—system of taxation, which operated so unjustly, ought to be abolished. In conclusion, he thought they owed a deep debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Derby for bringing this subject under public attention. 

§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH said, he was in the unfortunate position of not being able to agree either with the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) or his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver). Though sympathizing with much in the speech of the hon. Member for Derby, he could not but think it somewhat exaggerated, and that the hon. Member made rather too much of the bread tax in attributing to it all that was wrong in the condition of the Island. The bread tax was not even the main source of taxation, for only one-half of the taxes raised came from that source. He acknowledged that was a large amount; but it was less than would he inferred from the speech of the hon. Member for Derby. The hon. 1915 Member represented the tax as a burden imposed by the richer classes in Malta upon the poorer. That was hardly correct, for the hon. Member was unable to bring forward any instance to show that the poorer classes were themselves opposed to the tax. And, surely, the mendicancy of the Island was to be attributed to the poorness of the soil and the scarcity of employment rather than to that cause. The hon. Member also thought that the insanitary condition of the Island was due to the tax; and he instanced houses he had himself seen in some of the worst quarters of the city. There was, he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would admit, a block of buildings, containing about 1,600 persons, which ought certainly to be swept away in any sanitary improvement which might be made; but that particular place was no more a fair sample of the whole of Malta, than a slice from the Seven Dials would be of the state of London. We had, in this country, for many years freedom from taxation on bread; but in spite of that we had found it necessary to pass Artizans' Dwellings Acts, and we had to meet no slight opposition to the taxation required for sanitary purposes. He understood that even in the town which the hon. Member represented, though there was no bread tax, there was a certain amount of disinclination, on the part of the Corporation, to adopt the provisions of the Artizans' Dwellings Act, though it was very necessary that it should be done. He quite admitted that this tax on food was objectionable for many reasons; and he had stated those reasons in the despatch he addressed last year to the Governor of Malta. He quite admitted, also, that the sanitary condition of the Island was capable of improvement, and he had done a good deal since he came into his present Office to promote that improvement. The drainage of what was called the "Three Cities" had been under consideration in Malta; and, finding that by the existing system, which was described as "a system of elongated cesspools," the sewage of a city with 50,000 persons was discharged into the harbour, and remembering that this country, on account of our Naval and Military Departments, was prepared to contribute liberally to the expenses, he felt himself justified in directing that the proposed scheme 1916 should be passed through the Council, in spite of the opposition of the elected Members. That step had occasioned much complaint on the part of the hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Wexford and others, who said that Malta had been taxed for the benefit of this country. But Malta would pay only four-sevenths of the cost of a work which was very much for her benefit. The passing of a measure similar in its provisions to our Public Health Acts, which might enable the Government to deal with the insanitary condition of some of the worst places in the Island, had been pressed for some years past upon the Council of Malta, but had been stopped by the opposition of the elected Members. There, again, the question arose whether it would not be in the interest of the Island that the opposition of the elected Members should no longer be allowed to prevent the necessary reforms? When he came into Office, he found that his Predecessor had directed an Inquiry into the system of taxation, and a Report had shortly before been received at the Colonial Office. The subject was new to him; but he had considered it as far as he could; and last summer he addressed a despatch to the Governor of Malta, proposing that one-half of the bread tax should be taken off. It appeared to him that was as far as it was possible to go, considering that there was a heavy burden on the Revenues of Malta for drainage and other matters, and it would be necessary to provide from other sources what was lost by taking off that portion of the tax. The question was necessarily postponed to the present year, and the matter was then brought forward by the Members of the Government in Council, and debated. He was now waiting for the Report of the debates in the Council; because, before proceeding any further, he wished to have before him the views, not only of the official, but of the elected Members of the Council, on this important subject. Some years ago, one of his Predecessors in the Colonial Office—Lord Cardwell—addressed a very well-known despatch to the Governor of Malta, wherein he stated his views as to the weight which should be attached to the opinions of the elected Members of the Council in these and similar questions. Lord Cardwell stated that great consideration should be shown to the 1917 opinions of the elected Members of the Council in matters of local interest, and that no vote of local taxation or expenditure should be passed against a majority of the elected Members, unless in very exceptional circumstances, when the public credit was immediately at stake, and never without an immediate Report to the Secretary of State. Having regard to that view, which had been expressed so solemnly by one of his Predecessors at the Colonial Office, he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had thought it was only fair and right that he should pay every consideration to the opinions of the elected Members of the Council on such a subject. He should have failed to pay that consideration if he had, without even hearing the opinions of the elected Members, pressed on the Council of Malta so great a change in their system of taxation as would be involved in the abolition of half this bread tax. As soon as he received those opinions, he should give them the consideration to which they would be entitled; and it would then be his duty to take such action in the matter as the circumstances seemed to him to demand. He trusted, however, that the House would not, that evening, fetter his action upon this question by adopting the Motion of the hon. Member for Derby. That Motion amounted to an expression of opinion that, whatever might be the views of the Maltese, who were the people concerned, at a certain date—namely, in the year 1881—the whole of this bread tax should be repealed, and the whole fiscal system of the Island changed; and that, with regard to certain items of expenditure—such as drainage, lighting, paving, and so on—they should be paid for by the imposition of a rate. But he was assured that the imposition of a rate would be, of all things, the most distasteful to the Maltese: and not merely to the wealthier classes, but to all the householders of Malta. Was that House not merely to alter the whole system of Maltese taxation, but to insist on the householders of Malta declaring a rate for certain purposes, whether they liked it or not? Moreover, would such a proceeding really carry out the views of the hon. Member for Derby? The most telling part of the hon. Member's speech was his account of the wretched habitations in which some of the poorer classes 1918 of Malta had to live. Did the hon. Member suppose that if the taxation were divided into two portions, as he would recommend, sanitary reform would become more popular in Malta, if it were to be effected by the levying of a rate, instead of being paid for by the present system of indirect taxation? He was afraid that the adoption of the hon. Member for Derby's proposal would defeat the hon. Gentleman's own object. There was force in the remark of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), that reform should come from within rather than from without. Surely, even the hon. Member for Derby would wish that there should be a proof given of the desire of the people, or some portion of it, for a change before it was made. At present, the mass of the people were not represented by the small electorate of Malta; and he thought it a matter which was deserving of consideration whether, in this and similar questions affecting the Island, the first and wisest step would not be to increase in some way the electorate? For these reasons, he would ask the House not to pass the Motion of the hon. Member for Derby; but to leave the matter in his hands, and allow him to try to deal with it on the principles which he had indicated. 

MR. PLIMSOLL rose to reply, but— 

§ MR. SPEAKER informed him that he was not entitled, by the Rules of the House, to make a second speech. 

§ Question put. 

§ The House divided:—Ayes 120; Noes 62: Majority 58.—(Div. List, No. 201.) 

§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

 

1883

MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS.

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HL Deb 23 August 1883 vol 283 c1718 1718

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH, who had given Notice that he would ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies, If he will place on the Table the last Report of the Committee of the Maltese Nobility on the claims of certain members of that body, said, that the noble Earl was not now in his place; but he understood that there would be no objection to the production of that Report. 

§ Address for, "Last Report of the Committee of the Maltese Nobility on the claims of certain members of that body," 

§ —(The Viscount Sidmouth,)—agreed to. 

§ House adjourned during pleasure; and resumed by The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

 

1885

QUESTION. OBSERVATIONS.

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HL Deb 20 April 1885 vol 297 cc131-4 131

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH , in asking the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Whether he will cause a list of the Nobles of Malta, whose titles have been recognized by Her Majesty, to be published in The London Gazette, as was recently done in the case of a Canadian nobleman? said, that the nobility of Malta was 132 not a mushroom nobility, but had existed for hundreds of years. Many of the titles went back as far as the 13th century, and the rights of the nobility had been over and over again confirmed in Statutes by the Grand Masters; and when Malta was handed over to this country a solemn engagement was given that all their rights and privileges should be respected. It was felt by them as a great grievance that the recognition formerly accorded to them had been taken away by despatches from the Colonial Office. When Queen Adelaide visited the Island he was present, and the nobility occupied the place of precedence. Things went on in the same way until His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was in the Island. On that occasion the matter was referred to the Governor, and he understood that the Judges somehow or other claimed to take precedence of the nobility contrary to all precedent. The question was referred to Lord Carnarvon, then at the Colonial Office; and though he would be the last person to accuse his noble Friend of neglecting any matter that came before him, he could not help thinking that the noble Earl could have paid but slight attention to the subject, for he wrote back that the precedence always allowed to the nobility should give place to that of the Judges, and in a subsequent despatch he extended the precedence to the Judges' wives. That had created a very unpleasant feeling in Malta. He had been long acquainted with the Island, and he could say that the nobility were strongly attached to the British connection, and that many of them were of considerable wealth, cultivated intelligence, and eminently fitted to adorn the high station they before occupied. They naturally felt grieved that their position and their representations had been persistently ignored by the Colonial Office. The noble Earl was asked on a recent occasion whether he would permit their titles to be published in The London Gazette. Unless that was done they would have no status at the English Court. Considering this as a matter of policy, he thought that the claims of the nobility of Malta should be recognized. In India we should not attempt for a moment to refuse their high rank to the Princes and nobles of that country, nor ought we to do it in this case, because 133 we had no danger to apprehend. "What he would ask was whether the noble Earl would allow those titles to be published in The London Gazette, so that those gentlemen might take their places at the English Court? 

THE EARL OF DERBY said, that there was no intention on his part, and he was sure there had been none on the part of any of his Predecessors, to treat with disrespect or neglect the Maltese nobility. They were a very respectable but not a numerous body, consisting of between 20 and 30 families. When he saw the Question of the noble Viscount on the Paper he referred the matter to Sir Albert Woods, Garter King-at-Arms in Heralds' College, who was the highest authority on such points; and he received an answer the purport of which was that what the noble Viscount proposed—namely, the publication of the list of those nobles in The London Gazette, would certainly not have the effect the noble Viscount desired. It would not, he was informed, give the possessors of Maltese titles rank or precedence in England; and, with respect to the rank and precedence they enjoyed in Malta, their status had been fully recognized. What the noble Viscount proposed, therefore, would not alter their status in any respect. The noble Viscount raised another question—that of their precedence as compared with the precedence of official dignitaries in the Island. That was not the Question which the noble Viscount had given Notice of, but referred to an entirely different matter; but he believed it was a general rule in the Colonies and in India, as well as in Malta, that official rank took precedence. 

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH said, what he wished to state was that the grievance felt most strongly was that the conditions upon which Malta had been annexed to this country had not been observed. It was promised that all the rights of the nobility should be preserved, and that they should enjoy the same position with respect to public functionaries as they had enjoyed at the time of the Grand Masters. 

THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say a few words on this matter. Your Lordships must be fully aware that the intercourse between the English and Maltese societies does not always run quite smoothly, and I think that if the 134 noble Earl, although he may not be in the position to accord entirely what the noble Viscount's Motion proposes, could yet in some way further recognize the position of the nobles of Malta, it would be a great benefit. There is one point to which I would venture to allude as creating a difficulty between English and Maltese societies, and that is the absolute refusal of the members of the club to receive the Maltese within the club. I think—and I have always expressed myself at Malta in the same sense—that that is the greatest possible mistake, and a great injustice to those high-minded Maltese gentlemen who are so anxious to become members there. I think, perhaps, if the Government could in any way give some further recognition to the position of the nobility in Malta, it might act as a great inducement to the members of the club to elect Maltese to it; and I am certain that the result would be that intercourse there would run far more smoothly, and I am sure would only tend to strengthen British rule in that Island. 

THE EARL OF DERBY said, the subject referred to by the illustrious Duke was not within the competence of the Government. He was quite sure the Maltese nobility would feel very grateful for the interest shown in their position by their Lordships' House; and he cordially concurred in what, had been said, that it was most desirable that the social relations between the Maltese and the English should be closer and more cordial than hitherto. 

 

1886

MALTA.—RESOLUTION.

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HL Deb 17 May 1886 vol 305 cc1149-50 1149

§ VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH moved for— Copies of all correspondence having reference to the Maltese nobility which has been addressed to or has emanated from the Colonial Office since August 1883, up to the present date. 

THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Earl GRANVILLE) , in assenting to the Motion, said, he had 1150 just laid the Papers on the Table, by command of Her Majesty. 

§ Motion agreed to.

§ Copies or extracts of correspondence with reference to the Maltese nobility (in continuation of [C.-3812.], August 1883): 

§ Presented (by command), and ordered to lie on the Table. 

1899

MALTESE NOBILITY.

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HL Deb 15 June 1899 vol 72 c1169 1169

VISCOUNT SIDMOUTH

My Lords, I beg to ask Her Majesty's Government if all correspondence referring to a memorial from Mr. G. Apap Testaferrata, between August, 1888, and the present time, can be laid on the Table of the House. I do not wish to enter into a discussion upon this subject, but as I have had the honour of being appointed hon. president of the Maltese Council of Nobility, I desire to ask whether the Papers relating to this case and the correspondence which has taken place can be laid upon the Table. 

THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Earl of SELBORNE)

My Lords, the claim of Mr. G. Apap Testaferrata to be recognised as one of the Maltese nobility, to which the noble Lord refers, was twice rejected by the Committee of Privileges of the Maltese Nobility. On a third occasion, in 1892, the Committee advised the allowance of the claim, but no fresh reasons were given for the change of view, which was not accepted by the Secretary of State. It does not appear to the Secretary of State that the matter is one of sufficient general interest to justify the publication of the correspondence on the subject. 

 

1930

POLITICAL CONDITIONS IN MALTA.

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HL Deb 05 November 1930 vol 79 cc44-62 44

§ LORD STRICKLAND rose to call attention to the political conditions in Malta, to move for Papers, and to ask His Majesty's Government— 

  1. (a) Whether information will be sought through the British Mission at the Vatican as to whether the Holy See has authorized threats of excommunication of candidates and members of the Imperial Parliament for speaking in favour of Maltese Ministers in connection with the Maltese crisis. 
  2. (b) Whether assurance will be given that the powers transferred to the King of England, as successor of the Sovereign Grand Masters of Malta, will be exercised to object to the episcopal 45 appointment of candidates against whom the Governor of Malta may have recorded a veto, and whether to strengthen this right, care will be exercised in future not to go beyond its strict interpretation by suggesting candidates for political reasons, or on account of their being conspicuous for British culture. 
  3. (c) Whether, without any specific allegation of having attacked faith or morals, the ecclesiastical authorities in Malta have banned the printing, reading and selling of newspapers of the Party in favour of British culture, to the detriment either of the inhabitants, or of the livelihood and interests of British subjects not domiciled in Malta; whilst ecclesiastical authorities subsidise a Press that has violently attacked the Party in favour of British culture, and do not ban newspapers advocating repudiation of allegiance to the King, or Italian literature opposed to religion and morals. 
  4. (d) Whether the Government is aware that the Press of the Party that stands for Italian culture in Malta has recently printed appeals to postpone loyalty towards the King Emperor in favour of obedience to another authority. 
  5. (e) Whether protection will be given against plots to assassinate the head of the Ministry, by publishing what is known of three plots and one attempt in that direction. 
  6. (f) Whether, in view of the fact that a part of Ordinance V. of this year is admittedly ultra vires and the rest has had to be substantially modified, the whole Ordinance will be repealed to facilitate the re-enactment of such portion thereof as may be constitutional. 
  7. (g) Whether the first representative of the King of England in Malta reported in a Despatch presented to this Parliament, that the revenue of the Bishopric was four times that of any private landowner, and might be a danger to public order if not equally expended for the education of the clergy. 
  8. (h) Whether Monsignor Dandria, canon theologian, and the emissary who has been recently in England to state the case in the Press against Maltese Ministers, said in the Maltese 46 Parliament on the 6th February, 1923, that "the Bishop has no power to interfere in the election or constitution of the two Houses of Parliament."

§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend on the left, who seconded the Address of this House in reply to His Majesty's gracious Speech, invited Conservatives to cross the floor. I do not rise from this side of the House in response to that invitation, but because I feel that those who have had the honour to be appointed in the name of the King as Ministers beyond the seas should stand behind His Majesty's Government in this House with the hope of sympathy and support. 

§ No Maltese question should be debated without bearing in mind that in the past persons in authority have given consideration to weightly reasons why some naval base more suitable than Malta might be selected for our fleets overseas. It is history that at one time Lord Nelson strongly held that opinion, and in our own times Lord Oxford and Asquith (then Mr. Asquith) discussed the question of taking our ships away from Malta. 

§ The main question to be submitted to your Lordships' House to-day arises from appeals called for by the "Nationalist" Press in Malta, and made otherwise to Roman Catholics in England to question candidates for the House of Commons at the approaching General Election, and obtain pledges from them that they will act in a future Parliament against my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies and against Maltese Ministers in view of the action which he arid the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs have taken in connection with the Maltese crisis. 

§ There is no breach of the English law in so doing, but when a candidate for the British Parliament is threatened with excommunication by his Bishop should he continue to speak to his constituents in support, or in defence, of servants of the Crown in Malta, a fundamental question is raised as to what is to be the position of Catholics in the service of the Crown throughout the Empire. I cannot forget that one of the principal factors that made Malta untenable by the French at the beginning of the last century was the activities of ecclesiastics in those days, and it is my 47 duty to be ever vigilant as to any risk that for any reason whatsoever constitutional government is made impossible so that the British flag might be lowered in Malta. If that were to happen, three-fourths of the population would starve, and it is in the interests of the population that it is my duty to offer warnings. 

§ Heligoland and Tangier were bartered without consulting the inhabitants, and the Ionian Islands were given away against the wish of the inhabitants. The Maltese complication has ceased to be a matter of local politics. It has become a question of world-wide importance to Catholics in public life throughout the English-speaking nations. Henceforth Catholics who aspire to enjoy the confidence of the King and his Ministers may have to decide where the line is to be drawn at which they must decline to give obedience to the ecclesiastical authorities on political questions, and where loyalty to the King and their constituents becomes definitely obligatory. We Catholics who are determined to obey our Bishops—according to the injunction of the present Pope to the Maltese Pilgrims in August of last year, in all matters ordained by Christ—must be equally definite in establishing and maintaining the confidence of our fellow-subjects and of the King whom we serve, that there is a point at which the line will be drawn; that is, where the issue is not one of faith or morals. 

§ The Grand Masters of the Knights Hospitallers in Malta established their "sovereignty" in the international sense of the word, when the Grand Master Verdale, who happened to be also a Cardinal, publicly declined in Malta to accept directions in civil matters from the Vatican. He was summoned to Rome to give an account of the disposal of prizes of war captured from the Turks. He defied Cardinal Colonna, the Papal Secretary of State, by suggesting that the Cardinal should send the Papal fleet of galleys into the harbour of Malta to fetch him away. He was not excommunicated, and instead of publishing a Blue-book of the type issued by the right hon. gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Cardinal Verdale set up a monument opposite to his Palace with his coat of arms in juxtaposition with those of Cardinal Colonna so arranged as to in- 48 dicate that the Grand Master of Malta was sovereign in civil affairs.

§ The Grand Masters used to select the Bishops, but when the sovereignty passed to a Protestant Ruler that practice was admitted to be unsuitable, and after negotiations with Governor Sir Lintorn Simmons, who was the first British plenipotentiary duly accredited to the Holy See since the Tudor period, an agreement or concordat was entered into by which it was established that the Holy See would not consider candidatures for episcopal vacancies whenever the British Government declared that the candidate was not a persona grata. That determination is arrived at by the Governor of Malta for the time being through the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Foreign Office. I beg respectfully to suggest that it would add greatly to the factors making for peace and quiet in Malta, if it were to be distinctly understood that in future the agreement arrived at between Cardinal Rampolla, Secretary of State, on behalf of His Holiness Pope Leo XIII and Sir Lintorn Simmons on behalf of Queen Victoria, will be strictly adhered to. 

§ When the late Lord Salisbury was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and I was sent to the Vatican on an informal mission to obtain and give certain intimations, His Holiness Pope Leo XIII charged me with a message to Her Majesty's Government that it would be a great mistake for the Imperial Government to press the selection of any particular candidate, because the candidate might be very unsuitable for reasons unknown to the Governor and, if such pressure were exercised and trouble followed, the position was likely to be unsatisfactory if representations for redress were made diplomatically. The exercise of those rights acquired by a concordat should in future be carried out in an absolutely correct manner, with the greatest respect for the rights of the Holy See and it would be very beneficial if no direct suggestions are made, provided the right to object to a persona non-grata is absolutely safeguarded and invariably upheld. 

§ With reference to the Press in Malta, when the Apostolic Delegate, Monsignor Robinson, was recently on a mission to that Island, the three editors of my 49newspapers in Malta waited upon His Grace, and gave explanations and assurances regarding the orders that had been imparted to them in regard to the management of their sections of the Press. These gentlemen gave entire satisfaction to the Apostolic Delegate, as regards their instructions—that they were never in any way even remotely to interfere with questions of religion or morality, and were to be very guarded and cautious when it became necessary to print defences against the political attacks or censurable doings of priests. My constant injunction to my supporters has been similar. I have received no complaints that those instructions, which I had given to the editors of the Press in Malta for which I am responsible, have not been complied with, notwithstanding incessant and grievous provocation. Your Lordships will, therefore, judge of my surprise when last Saturday I learnt from the telegrams in English newspapers that my principal paper in the vernacular, Progress, with the largest circulation, had been banned by the acting Bishop. 

§ It may be difficult for people in this country to realise what that means. In Malta such condemnation may mean immediate financial ruin to a newspaper enterprise. It is not the first time that similar threats have been applied, and the overbearing influence exercised on the Press has now reached a stage at which it may be doubted whether sections of the Press would feel safe in reprinting what I say in this House tinder the privilege of Parliament. In this country and in other countries under the British flag condemnations of that description would not be attempted except upon specific charges, with an opportunity of offering a defence. In these circumstances a free election in Malta is absolutely impossible until both sides can enjoy equality of opportunity in guiding public opinion. 

§ Maltese newspapers printed in Italian and in the vernacular have indulged beyond all conception in abuse so unbridled that it could not be repeated or even described in this House. Members of the Royal Family have not been spared, Governors have been attacked maliciously, attacked personally and politically, and everything English has been 50 held up to calumny and contempt. On the other hand, the systematic development and encouragement of pro-Italian propaganda has been unrelenting. Not only is that traceable in newspapers printed in Malta in Italian, but also in newspapers printed in Malta in English, and in many papers printed in the vernacular. There is evidence that some of these papers have been regularly subsidised, with money coming from abroad, and handled by some one having had relations with governments of foreign countries. There is also an ecclesiastical newspaper always attacking in the most violent manner English culture and the Maltese Ministers appointed in the name of the King in Malta, and this vernacular print acts and threatens in the name of the ecclesiastical authorities, purporting to be the organ of the ecclesiastical authorities, and it was certainly at one time subsidised with Church money and must rely thereon. It is difficult in those circumstances to enjoy the rights of a British subject as regards a free Press notwithstanding that in Malta freedom of religion is guaranteed by His Majesty's Letters Patent.

§ May I remind my noble friend the Secretary of State that, although he may say it is not his immediate business to protect the interests of British subjects born and domiciled in Malta, we may and do employ in our Press persons born and domiciled in England, and in their interests my right honourable friend is directly responsible to this Parliament for giving them justice. The methods employed in the name of religion may not be examined but the subsidising in competition with the pro-British Press of an ecclesiastical paper free from risk of suppression and the subsidising of associations for promoting Italian Imperialism, comes within the ambit of His Majesty's Government and may become dangerous should the European situation, unfortunately, approach a stage when the imminence of war might develop causes of anxiety. Although in a previous debate my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies intimated that he had no knowledge of a "conspiracy"—he used the word "conspiracy"—in Malta, for the transfer of that Island to a foreign Power, may I suggest to your Lordships' House that what the law calls a conspiracy is not the only danger; there 51 are many degrees of anti-British propaganda short of conspiracy, which, apart from the personal opinion entertained in a certain debate by my right honourable friend, might appear to others, who, perhaps, have further and more reliable information, as a development of hostile propaganda approaching a dangerous stage? 

§ There are Maltese whose mothers are Italian: there are sons of Italians in Malta who, according to the law of Italy, are still Italians, and whose sons again will be Italians and who are liable to military service in Italy if on land, or on sea they come under the Italian Flag: there is in Malta a numerous Italian Colony; and I think my noble friend did not fully gauge the new Italian patriotism of the rising generation and the magnificent rhetorical appeals made to that patriotism in speeches which make an impression in this country, and which are certainly deserving of the attention of all students of international politics. I venture to suggest that my noble friend was mistaken in assuming that the systematic and thrilling appeals of "il Duce" make no impression on persons of Italian birth and nationality settled in Malta. 

§ It so happens that the Italian language is the principal language of the Courts in Malta, and those who have a command of the Italian language above the average, and those who learn it at their mother's knee—and therefore hardly need to learn it in the schools—have a preferential opportunity to monopolise all the best posts in Malta under a bilingual system of examinations not only for the Bar, but for the Church and the Civil Service. That dual system of education and foreign influence which it safeguards—with the fact that we are subject to a triple system of education if our paramount Phoenician tongue is reckoned—is a handicap to which there is no parallel in any part of the world. It is natural that any youth who is thoroughly a master of one of the imported languages without having to learn it at school, can always command a better chance of success in the Civil Service and all positions connected with the Bar and the Church, especially if that language is Italian. Therefore, more weight should be given to the magnificent appeals to Italian patriotism by a Minister disavowing52 knowledge of a possible "conspiracy" in favour of "the future Roman Empire." It is taught in Italy that the "Latins" colonised Malta, not the Phoenicians, and that Malta is Italian and is part of "Italia irredenta," the rightful possession of the House of Savoy through succession to the rights reserved when the Order of St. John occupied Malta. 

§ A political bargain has been attempted in Malta to re-establish and foster the disappearing domination of Italian culture, and to reintroduce medieval ecclesiastical privileges that were abolished at the beginning of the last century. That is one side of the bargain; on the other side there is offered undue influence over the votes of many Maltese bewildered by the mixing up of politics and religion, and of others who do not as yet enjoy the benefit of education and of British culture. The antidote against such bargains is obviously compulsory education, the spread of the English language and a reasonable freedom of the Press. The elimination of undue preference for those speaking the Italian language and admiring the Italian Flag is also to be considered. Under self government it is obvious that no foreign language should, or could, long remain in a preferential position, in any country under the British Flag. 

§ I am not advocating that the Government of to-day should follow the example of Napoleon, who, after being a few days in Malta, proclaimed the French language to be the only language of the administration of the Government and the Courts. Under our own "tactful" rule, after 130 years, a foreign language, Italian, is still the principal language of His Britannic Majesty's Courts in Malta, and 80 per cent. of the Maltese who do not understand it, may be tried for their lives in a foreign language which is not the language of their King. 

§ The foundations of practical religion have suffered very deeply by this recent mixing up of politics and religion to the extent that 35,000 Maltese last Easter failed to send in the usual certificate as to the annual performance of their religions duties. For that detriment to religion those political priests who have been mixing up politics and religion are principally and directly responsible. 

53

§ Referring to the constitutional questions, it would be a gracious gesture on the part of my noble friend the Secretary of State if he were to recognise the sacrifices that have been made by Maltese Ministers in upholding and extending British culture if he were to repeal completely Ordinance V of this year. That Ordinance has been proved to be legally erroneous and administratively impracticable. A part of it was immediately repealed by other legislation. It would be quite easy to repeal the whole of it, and to re-enact, if necessary, anything therein that is constitutional. There are portions of that Ordinance as to which, as a member of the English Bar whose life has been spent in contact with constitutional law, and who has drafted for the Colonial Office parts of two Constitutions for Malta and one for the Leeward Islands, I have no hesitation in saying that it is unconstitutional to amend a clause of a Constitution by Ordinance when the Letters Patent lay down that the clause amended cannot be dealt with otherwise than by an Imperial Act. That illegality is what has been adopted in the drafting of Ordinance V in reference to the functions of Maltese Ministers. 

§ I may add that such an attempt to recast the Constitution was quite unnecessary, because the subsidiary Letters Patent establishing the office of Governor in Malta gave immediate and ample powers in any emergency that in the opinion of the Governor on the advice of Ministers called for action in concert with the Privy Council and Joint Committees; and the Governor in any case can use his unfettered judgment after consulting the Privy Council of Malta. The Governor acts on the advice of the Privy Council and on the advice of Joint Committees of the Nominated Council and of the Executive Council under conditions which do not bind the Governor to take the advice of anybody under the Constitution of 1921. Therefore, there was no necessity for Ordinance V to give to the present Governor having long experience in Maltese affairs further power to do that which he wanted. There was already power in reserve without passing Ordinance V on erroneous legal advice; and that Ordinance has caused misunderstandings and hurt the feelings of per- 54 sons who have been sacrificing the best part of their lives, resources and future prospects to give an example of loyalty to the British Crown to electors of Malta. 

§ I may be allowed to renew my thanks to the noble Viscount who, when the Maltese question was previously debated in your Lordships' House, recorded the opinion that, in the conditions of Malta, it was "a vile and malicious libel" to describe me as "a Freemason." And it may interest your Lordships' House to learn that Pope Pius IX and a former Bishop of Malta were similarly attacked for purposes of unjust and malicious defamation. After that defence by the noble Viscount, it is certainly more than disgraceful that Monsignor Dandria, formerly a member of the Maltese Parliament, and now a canon theologian, should come to England for months as an emissary of those who wish to support with political arguments and funds the mixing up of politics with religion. I submit that after that very weighty and responsible declaration of the noble Viscount, it is more than improper that in a newspaper called the Catholic Times the same imputation was again suggested. I trust that those noble Lords in this House who are brought up as I have been in the Catholic religion and determined to practice it in any case and who wish to die therein, will use all their influence in future to discountenance emissaries such as Monsignor Dandria and keep in the background and unwelcomed any one who comes here to foment this sort of religious discord and mischief. Such emissaries should not be accepted by Catholic houses in England as that encourages them to make themselves notorious as has to some extent been the case. 

§ The defence of the pastoral of the 1st of May has been repudiated in England by one of the two leaders of the "Nationalist" Party, which is the Party of which Monsignor Dandria is a subordinate. I refer to a declaration made here by the former Head of the Ministry in Malta, who said that he disapproved of the action of the Bishops in making it a "mortal sin" to vote for the Constitutional or Labour Parties in Malta. The other co-leader of the Party caller Nationalist, who was court-martialled for disloyal activities, has refrained from 55 expressing an opinion on the point. That co-leader of the Nationalists has had his own newspaper ex-communicated in the past because the Gazetta di Malta exposed abuses of the administration of Church property. 

§ The same Monsignor Dandria has been arguing here in the English Press for obedience to the ecclesiastical authority in political matters, but in contradiction of this it is recorded on page 980 of the Maltese Official Report of Parliamentary Debates for the year before last, that in the House of Assembly that reverend member used irreconcilable words, which I myself heard spoken by him in his place in the Maltese Parliament. The words of Monsignor Dandria are as follows:— The Bishop has no power to interfere in the election or in the Constitution of the two Houses of Parliament. I hope my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies will not be too prone or excessively tactful in giving credence to people ready to come to his office to say one thing there after having said the contrary in Malta. 

§ The exploiting of the ecclesiastical condemnation of Freemasonry in Malta by Monsignor Dandria for the purpose of defamation in England is all the more deplorable when it is remembered that he came as an emissary of Monsignor Gonzi, and that this Prelate, after having entered the Maltese Parliament as "a Labour candidate" to make himself of use to those in power as a nominee of the Archbishop and as his confidant, was recommended for appointment to the Bishopric of Gozo by Lord Plumer, Governor of Malta, who is an ornament of the British Order of Freemasons. As was explained in this House by two noble Lords in the former debate on Malta, there is nothing with regard to that Order in England that has been condemned from the Catholic point of view except that a secret oath is taken. There is nothing whatever that is known which would justify a suggestion that Freemasons are hostile either to any religion or to the British Crown; and if that were the case, if these attacks against me on the false allegation of being a Freemason were logical, ecclesiastics would have incurred ex-communication in Malta by sitting in secret in the Assembly under oath known as the Executive Council 56 with Lord Plumer. To be called a "Freemason" before an election in Malta for purposes of defamation is criminal and is punishable, because in Malta it is meant to make a candidate lose an election. I lost one seat for which I stood, and my colleagues lost three or four seats in that Parliament, because of this calumny spread by the colleagues of Monsignor Dandria through the Press and by leaflets distributed in Churches. If this allegation is to be imputed maliciously in England after Lord FitzAlan's pronouncement, it will appear inexcusable that it should emanate from any ecclesiastic, who has sat in secret in a Maltese Executive Council, with a Governor who was an ornament to the Order of English Freemasons. 

§ There is a general consensus of opinion that before an attempt is made to remedy the present political complications in Malta by legislation, the report of a Royal Commission should be available. I trust that I may be allowed to suggest to my noble friend, that after a Royal Commission has reported it would be easy to deal with the complicated constitutional questions by a short one-clause Act of Parliament repealing the present Letters Patent with a view to re-enacting a workable Constitution, which may be advised by the Royal Commission. There is precedent for such action by the Imperial Parliament to facilitate procedure. It is the only way in which certain clauses of Colonial Constitutions can be varied; if it was practicable for Canada, it can be applied to other places. I hope my noble friend will find an opportunity to afford to Members of both Houses of the Imperial Parliament an occasion, either in the House itself or at the Colonial Office, of expressing opinions on the terms of reference to the proposed Royal Commission, and also as regards the personnel that may he appointed to the Commission. 

§ We have observed in England how a systematic campaign in the Press—partly defamatory, sometimes of misrepresentations of facts, and at times unwise—can injure the highest in the land. I have likewise been the object, as have many staunch friends of England in Malta, of similar attacks for years; and a point I wish in this connection to lay before my noble friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies is this: no amendment 57 of the present law of libel is likely to be effective, unless a Royal Commission is appointed and advises a suitable alteration of the Letters Patent. In England Judges are appointed more or less alternately by the several Political Parties; if Judges have any strong political opinons, as some of them have had, they put the same in cold storage as far as concerns their judicial functions; half perhaps appear to tend in one direction and the other half in the other direction in politics. In Malta, until Judges and Magistrates have been appointed after a series of years, in turn, first by one Party and then by another, so as to approximate a balance, the administration of the law will leave great cause for anxiety. It is not a question merely of amending the law. Numbers of libel cases have been before the Courts of Malta in order to find out how best the law might be amended, but the most perfect of laws has to depend on the manner in which it is administered. 

§ As an example of some of the disadvantages under which the Press is suffering I may mention another newspaper—not the newspaper, Progress, that was banned last Saturday, but another newspaper called the Sun, of which the circulation had gone up to several thousands —which was condemned by the Archbishop without any notice to me, without any imputation of a specific breach of my duty in regard to faith or morals. The notice of condemnation was received in the country: I immediately motored into town, went into the printing office, and stopped the presses. That was done to avoid scandal, or perhaps as an exhibition of that sort of extreme tact which at the beginning of the War postponed the building of any submarines. When political controversy reaches a certain stage it may become a question of submarine meeting submarine. That condemned newspaper lost its goodwill, and advertisements, and another had to be started afresh. I would like to cite another case of the harsh treatment of a newspaper—the Times of Malta, printed in English. A sub-editor reprinted from the London Times an article "On Advent." It contained no attack on religion; it was a beautiful example of English literature. For this the Times of Malta was threatened, but the original in the Times of London was not barred, and many Italian and English papers are 58 imported that are irreconcilable with our faith and morals. 

§ I wish to express my great regret that, in the interests of the Empire, and in the discharge of my duties to those who have done me the honour of electing me in Malta, I have felt it necessary to discuss in your Lordships' House matters connected with religion. I also regret the transfer to English soil of the new campaign threatened in the Maltese newspapers against candidates for the British House of Commons and the attempts to extract pledges here in England from candidates for the next General Election. This campaign should be stopped by the joint and energetic action of my fellow Catholics in this House and in this country; otherwise it may become necessary again and again to discuss these religious questions in this Parliament, and the responsibility for this necessity will rest on those who may now hesitate to find the means to suppress or to discountenance such tactics as the sending of an emissary from Malta—naturally with his expenses paid by interested parties —to employ two months in Press propaganda here in England. No Leader of a Party can expect the confidence of supporters if he does not find a way and a correct place for stating his defence when ruthlessly attacked. I beg to move. 

LORD PASSFIELD

My Lords, I hope the House will agree that it would be inadvisable for me to discuss in detail the various points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strickland, in his Motion, particularly in view of the comprehensive statement that I made in this House on June 25. I must not be taken as admitting the accuracy of the statements made by the noble Lord, on most of which, in fact, I have no information whatsoever. I confess that I fail to understand the largely cryptic, historical references which the noble Lord made to the Ionian Islands, Tangier, Heligoland and the Grand Masters of the Knights Hospitallers.

I need not assure your Lordships that there is absolutely no question of any alteration in the condition of Malta as one of His Majesty's Possessions. The Order in Council and the Letters Patent of June 26 made provision for carrying on the Government of Malta during the present interim constitutional régime. 59 Since then I have been giving meet careful consideration to the difficult questions that have arisen in Malta. I have fortunately been able to discuss matters with the Governor, Sir John du Cane, who was in this country on leave of absence. I think your Lordships may rest assured that every means is being explored whereby the Constitution of Malta may be established on a firm basis for the future.

With regard to the second part of the noble Lord's Question, I am not quite clear whether the noble Lord's suggestion is that the Archbishopric of Malta is likely to be vacant in the near future. If so, I can only say that I have no information bearing out the suggestion. I may, perhaps, remind the House that in any such event, as the noble Lord has indeed mentioned, the position would be governed by the terms of the Agreement arrived at in March, 1890, between Sir Lintorn Simmons and the then Cardinal Secretary of State, by which the Holy See undertook to give previous notice to His Majesty's Government before proceeding to fill a vacancy in the Episcopal See of Malta or that of Gozo, and also, by "verbal communications of a strictly confidential and private character," to assure itself beforehand of His Majesty's Government's concurrence in any appointment proposed. Your Lordships will perhaps excuse me if I do not go any further into the rather complicated details of the position in Malta. I am not sure that those matters ought to be raised in this House, but at any rate, if they are raised, I must confess that I am quite unable to cope with the noble Lord. I have no information about practically all those details.

With regard to the publication of further Papers, I do not know whether the noble Lord presses for that, but I want to say to your Lordships that I do not consider that further publication now is necessary or that, in the present state of things in Malta, it would be at all desirable. In Command Paper No. 3588 of 1930 the Government have already published the important Papers, and there is really nothing more that could usefully be published at present. The Order in Council and the Letters Patent of June 26 have, of course, been published in Malta since the Command Paper was issued. I hope the House will allow me to refuse to 60 give Papers at the present moment, but I am quite ready to repeat what I said in the House on June 25—namely, that the Government will be prepared at some future time to entertain a request for all the Papers up to date. In the present state of feeling in Malta it is extremely undesirable that we should add to the number of charges, counter-charges and rejoinders which have been made, and certainly, in the interests of peace in Malta and of the future change in the Government which must shortly take place, it would be very far from being desirable that further Papers should be published at the present time. I hope that the noble Lord will be good enough not to press his Motion. 

LORD STRICKLAND

My Lords, with reference to the request for the publication of Papers, may I say that from many points of view Malta is still mediæeval, and a study of historical records of the fine art of assassination as practised in Italian Republics will show that the best defence against the repetition and success of such plots is publicity. There can be no better antidote than to set out before the public the methods and agencies that come to light and to rely upon public opinion to create the impression that political assassinations are not popular and not likely to succeed, and likely to be punished. There have been three plots, and one attempt, to assassinate me holding the office of Head of the Ministry; and therefore among the Papers, that I hope your Lordships' House will desire to have published, is an affidavit connecting the leaders of the Nationalist Party with one of those attempts. I should also like to see published in England a letter printed in Malta from the Archbishop in which, just after the attempt at my assassination, he expressed an opinion that the would-be assassin was irresponsible; this prejudged a fundamental question that had to be decided before a Court of Law, and at a time when that question was still sub judice. I submit that it would be in the interests of protecting public servants whose lives are threatened if this and similar correspondence could be published now, and whenever more becomes available from time to time.

I hope I may appeal to members on this side of your Lordships' House to 61 hold that the days of secret diplomacy are almost over, and that it is no longer practical and useful to keep secrets for long. At a certain stage, publicity is useful; it is better from an administrative point of view that secrecy which is no secrecy should not be cherished.

As regards the Ionian Islands, I am somewhat surprised that my noble friend seems to have forgotten all about them. He and I after him are the two senior members of the Colonial Service, and although we were not in the Service when the Ionian Islands were given over, we have had opportunities to pass on the traditions of those days. Nobody forgets that Mr. Gladstone was said to have given the islands away because he was a master of ancient Greek whilst their inhabitants talked modern Greek, and perhaps for some other reason which has tot been recorded. As an example of the hearing of history in political matters, I might remind my noble friend that the Order of St. Michael and St. George was established to acknowledge the services of those who worked well for the Crown in the Ionian Islands and Malta, and also to acknowledge the services of a reasonable number of the holders in Malta of titles of nobility recognised by the Crown as existing previous to the British sovereignty. When the Ionian Islands were given away, the Order of st. Michael and St. George also was given away in the sense that, whereas when the Ionian Islands formed part of the Empire, Maltese civil servants and the Maltese nobility shared with the inhibitants of the Ionian Islands a certain number of recommendations for promotion and appointment to that Order, it seems that now, notwithstanding the ancient statutes and the history of the Order, there are very few Maltese civil servants in the Order, whilst it numbers a great many English civil servants. Moreover not one of the Maltese nobility is so honoured except myself; and, as far as my present position is concerned, I do not come in reckoning, having been four times a Governor outside Malta. Hence, if the past history of the Ionian Islands and Malta when coupled together can have some weight with my noble friend, he may consider further recommendations far the Order of St. Michael and St. George, as regards the holders of ancient 62 titles of nobility in Malta recognised by the Crown and see how far he may be able to give some sympathetic consideration to my submission on these questions. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers. 

§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn. 

 

 

1936

MALTA (LETTERS PATENT) BILL [Lords].

Page retrieved: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1936/jul/01/malta-letters-patent-bill-lords

HC Deb 01 July 1936 vol 314 cc487-539 487

§ 7.28 p.m. 

§ Order for Second Reading read. 

§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill comes from another place, where it passed through all its stages without a Division, and it is now my duty to explain its provisions to the House as briefly as possible, to listen to the views expressed in different parts of the House, and to reply to them as far as I can. The Bill has two main objects. The first is to restore the powers which the Crown possessed relating to the Constitution of Malta, from the time when Malta became of its own wish and volition a British Colony more than 130 years ago until the year 1921—to restore to the Crown its powers to change the Constitution of Malta from time to time, if circumstances seemed to dictate that it would be wise 488 to do so, by Letters Patent. The second object is to validate all Ordinances promulgated by the Governor of Malta, with the approval of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, since the second suspension of the 1921 Constitution, which suspension took place in the autumn of 1933. In the Colonial Office we take the view that there is no doubt that these Ordinances are constitutionally and legally valid; but, as they have been and are being challenged in the courts, we want to avoid wasteful and expensive litigation. I wish to make it clear that, if some court could be found to declare them invalid, the Government would be compelled to come to Parliament the very next day to validate them by special emergency legislation. The Maltese Courts, both of first instance and appeal, have already decided that they are valid, but we do not want an endless stream of cases ending in appeals to the Privy Council, such as the one now being brought by Lord Strickland about his advertisements which disfigure the beauty, the amenity and the historic dignity of that wonderful Island. The validating Clause of this Bill, however important, will, no doubt, be considered by the House as much less significant than the first operative Clause, which restores the power of the Crown to alter the constitution of the Island from the form as it was before 1921.

The Constitution of 1921 was set up, like most Colonial Constitutions, by Letters Patent. How, then, is it that it requires an Act of Parliament passed by both Houses to restore the power of the Crown? It arises out of facts which are part of our legal history, and there are two quite celebrated cases where judges have decided at Common Law that this procedure of a new Act of Parliament is required in certain cases. The first case goes back many years. It was one of the many celebrated judgments of Lord Mansfield who, in the case of Campbell v. Hall, arising out of changes made on the advice of one of my predecessors in regard to the Constitution of the Island of Grenada in the West Indies, gave the judgment that, once the Crown by Letters Patent had created a legislative assembly with power to make laws, it had parted with its prerogative right to legislate and could not resume the right unless and in so far as that right had 489been expressly reserved in the Letters Patent. A similar case was that in re the Bishop of Natal, where it was decided by our courts that the Crown lost its prerogative rights when it had granted representative institutions. In most recent Colonial Constitutions this right has been expressly reserved, but in the Letters Patent setting up the new Constitution of Malta in 1921 they were not so reserved and, consequently, that Constitution cannot be altered in any way except by an Act of Parliament re-empowering the Crown to do so.

The 1921 Constitution of Malta was admittedly experimental and was a form of Constitution then fashionable as the result of the famous Montagu-Chelmsford Report in regard to India known as dyarchy, and it was one of the first of several experiments in, dyarchy. In order to adapt the principles of dyarchy to the peculiar conditions of Malta, the 1921 Constitution provided for the creation in Malta, a small island, with her smaller neighbour, Gozo, approximately of the area of the Isle of Wight, of not fewer than five councils, an Executive Council, a nominated Council, a Privy Council, a Legislative Assembly and a Senate. That was a very highly complex machinery of government. The idea behind it was to give the Maltese electorate responsible self-government in what were to be regarded as purely local internal affairs, and to reserve to the Governor full control of the affairs which concerned Malta as an Imperial fortress and naval base—the star and key of the whole of the Mediterranean—involving of course, all external affairs.

Those who have followed the history of the evolution of Dominion status and the like know, while it sounds very easy to divide internal from external affairs in theory and on paper, how difficult it sometimes is in practice. In Malta, it was found, as the result of the experience of this complex Constitution in 1921, extremely difficult to draw a clear line between the two sides of the dyarchy and to maintain them distinct, but for some time the experiment continued, until in 1931 the then Government, for which hon. Members opposite were mainly responsible, suspended that Constitution in consequence of the acute clash which had arisen between the Maltese Government, under the leadership of Lord Strickland, and the Ecclesiastical authorities. I well 490 remember the discussions in this House when the Government of that day, to which I was opposed, suspended the Constitution, and the issues that were raised were reminiscent to my historical mind of the Constitutions of Clarendon and the reign of Henry II in this country.

However, after two years' suspension of the Constitution the National Government in the summer of 1932 restored the 1921 Constitution, but restored it with certain clear understandings given in this House and in another place, and with a clear understanding given to the Maltese people and to the Governor of Malta. That clear understanding, which was one of the fundamental conditions under which the Constitution of 1921 was restored, was a clear understanding in regard to the language question. There is no subject of more acute controversy in Malta than this language question, and the understanding was that the teaching of Maltese and English should continue and be developed in the elementary schools. That was a principle to which we and very large sections of the Maltese people, who are very proud indeed of their ancient language, attached the greatest importance. The other party, the party opposed to Lord Strickland, tended to depreciate the value of both the ancient Maltese language and of the English language, and preferred the development of the Italian language. As a result of the election when the Constitution was restored, the party opposed to Lord Strickland was returned by a majority at the polls, and from the very start, the new Ministry of that party set themselves, we say deliberately, to evade the very express conditions under which the Constitution was restored in regard to this all-important question of language.

However, an effort was made to come to compromises, understandings and the like, but it was quite clear in the course of a few months, after the extreme clash of opposing political parties rallying round opposing cries on this language question, that extreme political vindictiveness and bitterness on both sides was being introduced, and in the autumn of 1933, after 15 months' retrial of the 1921 Constitution, the Governor, on the authorisation of the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, again suspended the Constitution, and 491 for the last two-and-a-half years it has remained suspended, and the whole functions of government have been exercised by the Governor alone, the Governor, of course, being responsible to this House through whoever occupies my position. His Majesty's present Government have decided that they cannot in present circumstances contemplate the restoration of the 1921 Constitution, and they take the view that indefinite continuation of the rule of the Governor, without either a Legislative or Executive Council, is equally undesirable, and they desire to have a new Constitution. The only way in which they can have a Constitution capable of development and change in the future, as experience shows desirable, is by resuming the power which the Crown possessed up to 1921 to amend the Constitution by Letters Patent. 

§ Mr. MORGAN JONES

The right hon. Gentleman used the words, "The Government cannot in present circumstances restore the 1921 Constitution." Do I understand that that means that the Government would, in other circumstances, restore the Constitution? 

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

No, I want to make that clear. We regard the dyarchic Constitution of 1921 in the light of our experience of the two suspensions. We do regard that as absolute, and believe that the Constitution of Malta in future must be upon unified lines rather than upon dyarchic lines. I want to make that clear. We do not contemplate restoring the 1921 Constitution, but we do contemplate the evolution of new Constitutions in Malta from time to time as circumstances permit. We want this Bill in order to resume the power to do what we can do by Orders in Council—vary the composition of the Legislative Council and the Executive Council from time to time as circumstances permit, and as this House expresses, through the control of the Secretary of State and its usual representations, the wisdom of so doing.

We desire to give Malta a new Constitution, but we cannot do so. We can only continue this formula which we have to-day, namely, ordinances issued by the Governor under the emergency and suspended powers, or restore the 1921 Constitution, and we do not want to do 492 either. Indefinite continuation of the rule of the Governor without either a Legislative or Executive Council is, in the view of His Majesty's Government, undesirable and incompatible with the admittedly high level and culture of the Maltese people. We hope to be able to frame a new Constitution—and this time a Constitution which can be amended and evolved from time to time as circumstances become opportune, instead of as at present being tied to the rigid Constitution of 1921, and all the defects that that Constitution has been shown by experience to possess.

We say, at first, that the unofficial element in the new council will be nominated, and as and when circumstances permit it is our hope that some elements of representative government can be introduced. Let me make it clear that whatever the exact form of Constitution we decide, in consultation with the new Governor of Malta, to adopt, I have no intention of allowing the Crown Colony type of Constitution which throws on me in Malta as elsewhere the major ultimate responsibility, to become stagnant. In public health, scientific agriculture, cultural development and financial stability, and all that will develop the national life of Malta, I am confident that the Maltese can be assured that the new Constitution, as during the last two-and-a-half years, will enable great strides forward to be made in their welfare. Malta and England are rightly proud of their mutual and intimate association for over a century. Malta down the centuries has had a stirring and gallant history. It is full of magnificent monuments and buildings of this great past. Firm, good and progressive government must be maintained in a colony which is of immense importance to this country in the scheme of Imperial Defence, and in the interests of a loyal and proud people with its special traditions and culture. I hope that it goes without saying that England in the future will respect, as she always has in the past, the religious liberties of the people of Malta and the special position of the Roman Catholic Church as the religion of the island, as established by law.

I ask the House, therefore, to pass the Second Reading of this Bill not in any spirit or desire to restrict the free expression of opinion in Malta or 493 anything of that kind, but in a true spirit of good will to the people of Malta, and with the assurance that this House will ever be mindful of their welfare and concerned with their progress and with the future development of the Maltese Constitution. 

§ 7.52 p.m. 

§ Mr. MORGAN JONES

I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."

The right hon. Gentleman has commended this Bill in terms which are wholly inadequate. Clause 3 has not even been honoured with a reference, and this Clause deals with the abrogation of Sections 1 to 4 of the Malta Constitution Act, 1932, Section 4 of which is of particular interest to hon. Members on this side of the House inasmuch as it has relation to the Trades Union Council. The right hon. Gentleman did not deign to say one word about it. The right hon. Gentleman must not assume that pleasant platitudes addressed to the people of Malta can be deemed in any way as an adequate justification for the very grave step which the House is asked to take to-night. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear, and his colleague in another place has made it more clear, how grave is the step which the Government are taking to-night. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that, before this step is formally endorsed by this House, it ought to be justified by the Government right up to the hilt. If I lay down that test, I submit to the right hon. Gentleman that the testimony he offers is wholly inadequate. That this is a grave step is beyond doubt. It has been suggested in another place that this Bill is intended to place Maltese affairs upon a regular and permanent basis. I invite the House to note that "permanent" was the word that was actually used. "Regular and permanent basis" were the exact words which appeared in the speech of his colleague in another place. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman that he is surprised at the use of that language. Very well, which of the two spokesmen of the Government is the House to accept as being authentic? One can behold one voice in this House, and another voice in another place, and apparently there is no agreement or understanding between the two voices. 

494

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

I think that my Noble Friend in another place used the word "permanent" in the sense that permanently Malta should have a unified constitution and not a dyarchic one, and that is the understanding in which the word "permanent" is now correct. To say that we are now proposing for all time to lay down an unchangeable constitution for Malta is not correct, and I hope I made it quite clear in my speech that it is not the case. 

§ Mr. JONES

I think that I shall have to refer to that point in detail presently, because I rather think that the right hon. Gentleman cannot have read the speech of his colleague in another place. When this Bill was first submitted it was acknowledged by the Government spokesman—and indeed the right hon. Gentleman has done the same here to-night—that in the Constitution of 1921 there was set up not representative government, but responsible government with certain reservations. I gather that the contention of the Government to-night is that the Constitution of 1921 was vitiated by two flaws, first that there was no power of reserve to the Legislature, and, secondly, that there was no power to revoke the Constitution as a whole. It is because of the so-called flaws in the Government point of view that the Bill has been introduced to remove those limitations.

The statement was made when the Bill was introduced in another place that as soon as the Bill is passed the Government intend to submit to His Majesty a proposal that the new powers derived from it shall be utilised to effect some modification in the existing constitutional position. The question therefore that arises for us to-night is, what do these modifications signify in form and in fact? The right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply that, anyway, the Government do not contemplate Crown Colony government in the strictest and narrowest interpretation of that phrase. I am glad to have that assurance, though I confess that I do not feel too reassured even now upon the matter. The country was told that as soon as possible, at a later date not specified, a more liberal system of government would be introduced, and this more liberal system is defined and implied by the right hon. Gentleman to-night as a government under a Governor with an executive 495 council. The Executive Council, of course, is to be composed of an official element and an unofficial element. It was made abundantly clear by the right hon. Gentleman that the Executive Council is only to be an advisory body. The country was informed a little more fully through the medium of the speech of the Under-Secretary than we have been informed here to-night as to what seems to be in the mind of the Government concerning the future direction of affairs.

We were told in the speech in another place that the Government propose to associate a number of Maltese of standing and experience. What does "a Maltese of standing and experience" imply? I do not know how you are to measure his standing, whether he is to be one who will get up when told to get up, and sit down when told to sit down. He is clearly a person who is to represent nobody but himself, and he is to be called up higher by the Governor if the Governor thinks fit. He is to be a nominated person. We were told in the speech to which I have referred that this council was to be a proper and regular channel through which unofficial opinion might be expressed. That was the view expressed in the other place as to the appropriateness of this form of government. It is true that the Under-Secretary said that it was to be of no more than an interim and provisional character. The right hon. Gentleman opposite underlined that point, in order no doubt to encourage our hopes as to the future. When one read those words naturally one was less disconcerted than one might otherwise be, but our hopes were speedily dashed, for all that the Members in the other place were told was that the Government looked forward at some unspecified time to establishing some form of representative government. But we had a little more precise idea given to us as to what this form of government implied to the mind of the Under-Secretary. Let me quote his words: By responsible government I mean not responsible government with Ministers, but a Legislative Council comprising, in addition to official members, a number of unofficial representatives chosen by popular election. That is the form of legislative council which was accepted by the Government spokesman in the other place as a proper 496 and regular vehicle for the expression of Maltese opinion. After he had indicated the terms of the forthcoming proposals, all that the Under-Secretary could hope for was that the proposal would find a measure of local acceptance.

It is quite clear that the step we are taking to-night is a complete departure from the situation as it existed in 1921. The question, therefore, arises, why is it that the Government are taking this step? What are the grave reasons which must be present to their minds before they take a big step such as this? Surely in this matter we have some experience to guide us, even in respect of Malta. The Under-Secretary said that we must proceed step by step and learn from the lessons of the past. What are the lessons of the past There was an Advisory Council set up in Malta over 100 years ago, in 1835, and I believe I am well within the truth when I say that that Advisory Council proved unsatisfactory and unacceptable to Maltese opinion. It was removed. Parliament took steps to change it. It must have been conclusively proved to the mind of the Government of the day, if not to the minds of the Maltese people, that a change from that form of government was necessary. Representative government was introduced over 50 years ago, in 1885, and that representative government proved not a complete success. I am putting it mildly by saying that. Experience, therefore, gives us guidance, first, upon the question of an Advisory Council, which is now proposed, and, secondly, upon the effectiveness or otherwise of representative government.

In 1921 Parliament took the very big step of carrying a Constitution, through the medium of which not representative but responsible government, with certain reservations, was given. We are asked to-night not to hark back even to the 1885 provision but to the 1835 position, 100 years ago, without the right hon. Gentleman taking the trouble of explaining adequately why the Government ask the House to take such a, step. Let me confine my argument to what has taken place from 1921 up to the present time. From 1921 to 1930 responsible government was in operation in Malta. Can anyone say that responsible government in Malta from 1921 to 1930 was a complete failure The right hon. Gentleman will, 497 quite properly, retort that in 1930 the Government of which I was a very humble member suspended the Constitution, but with the exception of the crisis which grew up in 1930 I maintain that in the preceding years it could not be contended that responsible government was a failure. In support of my contention I will quote a speech, not from anyone on my own side but from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). On 26th June, 1930, he said: While I entirely support the action of the Government, I do most sincerely hope they may find a way out of this difficulty which will enable the Constitution of Malta to come into operation again at the earliest possible moment. It would be a great misfortune if this wide measure of self-government—this really very daring experiment in self-government which was conceded to Malta less than ten years ago, and with the concession of which I was privileged to be closely associated—should be treated as having failed. Apart from the intervention of this issue, I do not think anybody can suggest that the Maltese have shown themselves unfitted for self-government. They have had plenty of liveliness in political contests; so have we. But there has never been a liveliness directed against the Empire or this country, and in spite of that liveliness the Island of Malta, has, under self-government, made very satisfactory progress indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1930; col. 1477, Vol. 240.] On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman was speaking officially on behalf of the Tory party from this side of the House. The Constitution was suspended in 1930. I am not exaggerating when I say that in 1930 the controversy was mainly between the Church on the one side and some individuals on the other, important individuals, and the Maltese people as a whole had probably nothing to do with it. The Constitution was restored in 1932. Then came the language difficulty and the Constitution was suspended again in 1933. I took a pretty lively interest in the controversy in this House in 1934 on the Colonial Office Vote. I said then what I repeat now, that the Colonial Secretary of that day took a step in regard to the language question in complete contravention of the recommendations of the Askwith Commission. On page 166 of their report the Askwith Commission recommended: That if and when the Secretary of State for the Colonies is satisfied that sufficient expression of opinion is given in support of an alteration in the elementary schools and that there is a desire on the part of the people in the Island for an alteration we consider that the alteration should take place. 498 I do not know whether he took trouble to find out what the views of the people of Malta were. At any rate, the Constitution was suspended in 1933 and it has been suspended ever since. When the people of Malta exercised the rights of self-government it can be fairly contended that they conducted themselves with some credit. It was argued in support of the suspension of the Constitution in 1933, and it has been argued on this occasion, that these changes came about partly because of the failure of the Maltese people to govern their financial affairs properly. My reading of the situation does not justify that observation. I think I am well within the truth when I say that when the National Government went out in Malta and its functions were taken from it, that Government left a surplus in the Treasury of revenue over expenditure of £150,000. There was not a single penny of public debt outstanding. Therefore, it is not fair to say that these people have brought about a state of financial chaos in Malta, as was positively stated when the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor spoke in 1934.

It cannot, therefore, be the truth that this situation has come about through any financial obliquity on the part of the Maltese people. It was said in the other place that it was time the poor Maltese had a change, a little rest from electoral controversy; that they should have a rest from elections and political dissension. Is that a. good reason for suspending the Constitution? I shall have been a Member of this House 15 years next month, and I have fought seven elections. That may be an argument for a rest, but I do not think that it is an argument for suspending the Constitution? Is that not a. flippant reason to advance for these proposals? It gives you the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that there is some reason behind all this which the Government have not given; that they have not given us the real truth of the matter.

It is suggested that the position of affairs in the Mediterranean justifies this step. Let us look at that contention for a moment. The Maltese people, as a matter of fact, under the Constitution of 1921, have nothing at all to do with defence. It never was a part of their task, it was specifically reserved to the Governor, and through the Governor to the Imperial Government, and if you restore the Constitution as it was in 1921, it will 499 not give to the Maltese people a single iota of power in regard to defence. Clearly that cannot be justified as an argument in favour of abrogating the Constitution. If this proposal cannot be justified on financial grounds, if the electoral argument is flimsy and if the argument of defence does not apply, can it be that the loyalty of the Maltese people is in question? I have quoted from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, and when he referred to the loyalty of the Maltese people his remarks were applauded by the Colonial Secretary. In addition, there was a specific acknowledgment in another place of the loyalty of the Maltese people by the Under-Secretary of State, in these words: His Majesty's Government not only believe they know that the vast majority of the people in Malta are absolutely loyal to the Crown and Empire to whatever party they belong. Clearly then this step is not being taken on the ground of any alleged disloyalty on the part of the Maltese. If it is not taken on the ground of finance or because the Maltese have failed to do their job, on what ground is this step taken? I fail to understand why the Government are taking this step. It has been suggested that the Maltese Constitution is a little too complicated. In that case the obvious remedy is to make it less complicated, not to be like petulent children—if you do not understand a thing, smash it. That is what the Government are doing. There are five instruments of Government in Malta. Let me see if I can remember them. There is the Senate, the Legislative Assembly, the Privy Council, the Governor, and organisations connected with the Governor. Malta is not a very big place. Suppose you got rid of the Senate, would the Maltese lose a lot? It would be a terrible thing if it should lose its Senate. There is the Privy Council, which I think does very little. If it went no one would shed any tears. If the machinery is too complicated simplify it, not smash it, as you are doing.

What is going to be the effect of all this on the Maltese people? To us it may not appear very impressive—Malta is only the size of the Isle of Wight, a glorified county council—but to the Maltese people it means very much. It cannot fail to be a great affront to them if they are put back not to the position of 1921 500but to the position of 1835, with a very plain indication that not for a very long time, if at all, will the Constitution of 1921 be restored. I am getting very disturbed about these indications of a growing tendency in the Colonial Office in regard to various parts of our Dominions. We have first of all Newfoundland—first not in order of time, but in order of magnitude. The conditions there, I know, were very grave, but we argued then that the abrogation of the Constitution even in those conditions was too big a step to take. There has been a much smaller one at the other extreme. There has been a successful attempt to abrogate the Constitution in the municipality of Suva in the Fijis. Little straws show which way the wind blows. There have been attempts to express hostility to the functioning of self-government if it operates in a way which the Government do not like. When it operates in a way which does not serve the purposes of the Government, then it is necessary to change the government.

Here we have a third instance—Malta. I admit that the Colonial Secretary's point is quite fair. Malta is an important strategical position, but so far as safeguarding of actual strategic matters are concerned that is not in the hands, and never has been, of the Maltese Government. If you do this and withdraw from them completely, formally, and by law any chance of a restoration of the 1921 position, you will not only take a very big constitutional step but you will, in my judgment, alienate people who might easily become very valuable friends. I do not think that you can afford to alienate these people, and even if you could I should still argue that you ought not to do this. These people attach great importance to the powers they possessed in 1921. For nine years they did their job without any complaints. There have been complaints since 1930, but in the intervening years from 1930 to the present time they have had no chance of proving that they have learnt by bitter experience.

We take the strongest possible objection to this proposal and, speaking for my friends and myself, we should like the Colonial Secretary to explain in a little more detail the real reasons for this step on the part of the Government. If the Colonial Secretary when he comes to 501 reply will give us the reasons why the Government are suspending these four Sections of the 1921 Act, we shall be glad indeed. We take our stand once again in this matter on the ground of firm principles. These people have the right to be consulted as to the conditions under which they are called upon to live. The Governor may choose admirable people, he may choose excellent advisers, but what authority will those advisers have unless the people have had some voice in choosing them? Therefore, it is on the broad ground of democratic principles, as well as in the conviction that no adequate case has been presented for this step, that I submit my Amendment to the House. 

§ 8.26 p.m. 

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

It is now, as the Minister said, two and a-half years since the Constitution of Malta was suspended for the second time, the Maltese Ministry dismissed and a state of emergency declared by the Colonial Secretary. Since then Crown Colony administration has been set up and Crown Colony administration of the most severe type. This state of emergency has been stretched to cover as much as two and a-half years, and I want to submit that this is really a standing reproach to the Imperial Government and to successive Colonial Ministers. A years ago, the Colonial Secretary, who is to-day Dominions Secretary, said in this House that a state of emergency could not continue indefinitely. They why has this state of emergency been allowed to continue for so long? It is, I believe, because Ministers could not decide what permanent measures to adopt for the future government of Malta, and the emergency lasted as long as the indecision in the Ministers' minds. In fact, it has taken a succession of four Colonial Secretaries to consider this problem, and meanwhile Malta has been subjected to a one-man rule. It has been governed by ordinances, and many of these have been of doubtful validity.

To-day, the Colonial Office comes to the House and asks us to declare all these ordinances as being valid, and to validate every one of them. Clause 2 of the Bill clearly shows that the Minister doubts the validity of many of these ordinances, and what he asks for is a retrospective declaration of validity. I do not pretend 502 to say that this is altogether a precedent. I believe that it happened before, in 1932, on the subject of the Island of Malta also, but surely that ought to have been a lesson to the Colonial Office at that time and they ought to have given their instruction to the officers in Malta to enact only such ordinances as they knew would be valid and could be validated without the authority of this House. In any case, the Government certainly had no excuse for continuing to exercise such doubtful powers for so long. After all, we know they have had a large and docile majority, and it would have been easy for them to have introduced proper legislation which would have given the Governor of Malta any powers they saw fit. So much for Clause 2 of the Bill.

The main object of this Measure, as the Minister has said, is contained in Clause 1. It is the policy of the future, and it is with that policy that we on these benches are mainly concerned. Let me say at the outset that we are in no way prepared to accept a Measure which merely validates what has been done and continues the present system of government. What is essential in Colonial affairs is continuity of policy. I venture to submit that in Imperial and Colonial affairs continuity of policy is even more important than in foreign affairs. During the last 100 years the British Government have shown that sense of continuity, and it is that enlightened policy, carried out by the Imperial Government, which has endeared this country and the rule of this country to so many of our Dependencies which encircle the world. As a result of that policy British Colonies and Dependencies have kept their attachment to the Mother Country and to the Crown.

Therefore, I suggest that it would be most regrettable if there were now a reversal of this policy with regard to the Island of Malta. For Malta our ultimate aim should be the same as for all the other Colonies, and that is to establish in due course representative and responsible government. In my view the restoration of responsible government in the immediate future is inexpedient, and here I may say that I differ from the official Opposition. After all, the official Opposition have agreed that they suspended the 1921 Constitution, and to-day, as far as I can gather from their speeches, 503 it is to that same 1921 Constitution, which was twice suspended, that they wish to return. 

§ Mr. MORGAN JONES

It was not twice suspended by us.

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

It was twice suspended by this House. I subscribe on this question to the advice and the opinion of Lord Askwith, who, while Chairman of the Royal Commission which reported on the 1921 Constitution, urged the Government to restore the 1921 Constitution with small alterations in regard to the judiciary; but only the other day in another place he supported the view of the Government of to-day and urged that responsible and representative government should be given to Malta again by stages, and he did not wish that the 1921 Constitution, the return to which he had advocated after the suspension of 1930, should be returned to at the present time. His view is indeed not surprising when one thinks that there were two successive attempts to carry out the behests of the Constitution of 1921, and that both of them failed. The factors which caused those breakdowns are still very powerful to-day.

The clerical influence will always be very strong in Malta. We all remember the effect of the Bishop's Pastoral in 1930. It prevented the working of representative institutions, and although Lord Askwith in 1931 thought that no such pastoral would be issued again, there is no certainty that another pastoral may not again interfere with the working of representative institutions. Another point is that the clerical element and the Italian movement are to a great extent identical, and in the present international and European situation we cannot ignore that fact. We cannot forget that one of the greatest achievements in the masterful policy of Signor Mussolini has been to gather the policy of the Vatican into the orbit of his own Italian policy. The Vatican has not shown itself out of sympathy with the Italian conquest of Abyssinia. 

§ Mr. LOGAN

What grounds has the hon. Member for saying that? 

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

I assure the hon. Member that I am only stating the historical facts. I do not wish to make 504 any accusation or any criticism. I merely say that the Vatican has shown that it was not out of sympathy with the policy of Signor Mussolini. I am not saying that in any derogatory manner. I simply put it forward now that when Signor Mussolini talks about "Malta Nostra," as he has done, he has the sympathy of the Vatican and the active support of its instrument in Malta. There is another important consideration which has always influenced the form of government in Malta, namely, the importance of Malta as a strategic point, not only as a factor in Imperial defence but as a factor in world peace. As far back as 1901 Joseph Chamberlain pointed out that this was a great Imperial fortress. We say that a system of government ought to be devised which will reconcile two factors—the necessities of Imperial defence and free representative institutions for the Maltese people. It is the duty of the Imperial Government to devise such a system and I trust, although it may be inexpedient at the present time to restore responsible government to Malta, the Imperial Government will make that restoration its ultimate aim. I sincerely hope that that is the Government's ultimate intention, in spite of the disheartening utterances made in another place by the Noble Lord who represents the Colonial Office.

The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition has referred to those speeches, and I would like, with the permission of the House, to refer to them in another aspect. The Under-Secretary spoke of the eventual establishment of some form of representative but not responsible government. He said that on two occasions. I trust that he was speaking only of the immediate future. Malta has known and has worked representative government for centuries. The Letters Patent of 1887 gave Malta a council of government in which six members were nominated and 14 were elected. Are the Maltese to remain at that point for ever? We cannot deny to them the hope of responsible government because of two unhappy failures. Such a policy would, I submit, have the most serious reactions. The first effect would be to encourage the pro-Italian movement and discourage the great body of the Maltese people. These are, practically all, loyal to the 505 British Crown, but they are strongly patriotic and proud of their national possessions and traditions.

Therefore I sincerely trust that the Government's ultimate aim is still responsible government for Malta. recognise that it may be necessary to proceed by stages, and I should like the Government to be more definite with regard to the stages by which it is intended to advance. I understand that the first stage is to be the setting up of a council of nominated members to assist the Governor in an advisory capacity. I hope that this stage will be short-lived, and also that this council will soon consist mainly of elected members. That would be no more than a restoration of the constitution of 1887. I turn to the more immediate future. Whatever machinery of government is set up, I trust it will be liberal—liberal with a small "1." I trust that it will be more liberal in operation than the machinery of the past 2½ years. Even if it is a despotism, I hope it will be an enlightened and benevolent despotism. Above all I hope that more freedom will be given to the expression of opinion. I wish to see freedom of opinion throughout the island. In another place Lord Strickland revealed that there were restrictions on free speech. 

§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER

I must remind the hon. Member of the rule concerning references to proceedings in another place. 

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

I was not quoting from a speech but was merely stating generally what had been said there, and I think I am entitled to do so, but I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I understand, however, that public meetings both inside and outside the fortress have been suppressed for two years, and that political meetings are not permitted by the police inside private premises. I learn also that last December there were protests against the drastic muzzling of the Press. That is a state of affairs which cannot be allowed to continue. Apparently, only one person has freedom of speech in Malta and that is Signor Mussolini, who nightly broadcasts Italian propaganda through the thousand wireless sets recently installed in Malta. The Under-Secretary in another place congratulated the Govern- 506 ment on installing those sets. What have they been used for chiefly? For the unrestricted dissemination of Italian news and the distortion of news. Are the Government to be congratulated on that achievement? Yet although Signor Mussolini is free to broadcast his views and to inflame the population of Malta at his wish, the Maltese themselves are not free to protest against it.

Last December such a protest was attempted. A public meeting was held, and the loyal Maltese cried "Long live England." They were arrested by the police, and the Union Jack was torn from their hands. The police, no doubt, were acting legally, but what a state of affairs in a British Dependency. What justification can there be for such a suppression of free opinion, both on the platform and in the Press? Why suppress both loyal and disloyal opinion? I am fully of opinion that the Administration should real drastically with Italian propaganda. It is the duty of the Imperial Government to protect the people of Malta from any outside interference such as that, but, after all, what we must think of is that we must also free loyal Maltese from illiberal restrictions which prevent them from giving expression to their just grievances and aspirations and hamper attempts to combat the propaganda from Italy.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us the assurances for which we ask. We are not prepared to embarrass him to-night, and we are prepared to support him in this Bill, provided he gives us these very necessary assurances. But in all legislation affecting Malta let us bear in mind these two essential factors: Malta is a fortress, which has for over 100 years guarded the safety of the maritime highway of the Mediterranean in the interests of peace, and this should continue to be so, but do not let us forget that we are also responsible for the political well-being and contentment of a loyal, civil population. 

§ 8.48 p.m. 

§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER

It is a remarkable and interesting fact that so many of the islands in the Mediterranean have been, at one time or other, under the control of the British Government. The Balearic Islands—Majorca, Minorca, and Iviza—which now belong to Spain, were once British; Corsica, which now 507 belongs to France, was once British, and if Napoleon had been born a few months earlier, he would have been born a British subject; the Ionian Islands, which now belong to Greece, were once under the British Crown. A year or two ago, when I was in Corfu, the leading Ionian island, I was interested to see that the principal ornament of the Governor's palace was a very fine portrait of our King George IV. Having parted with these islands, we still have two very important islands, the Island of Malta, of which we have been talking to-night, and the Island of Cyprus. These two islands, which are on the way to India, are vital to our control of the route to India and for the purposes of defence. The Island of Malta is a small island, but it has created an amount of attention in the world during its history far in excess of its natural importance. As the Minister said, the Island of Malta is about the size of the Isle of Wight, and the population of Malta is equal to the population of Portsmouth and Southsea.

The Bill which we are now discussing is going to give to the Crown the full and undoubted right to legislate for Malta by virtue of the Royal prerogative. To that I take strong exception, and with most of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) I agree. The result of passing that provision will be that the Government of Malta will become practically Crown Colony Government. The Governor has complete control of Malta. He is a dictator, and the people of Malta have no control over his decisions or his actions. As the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary who dealt with this Bill in the House of Lords said, the Government is a somewhat drastic form of government. Another Noble Lord, who is very well known as having occupied a prominent position in Malta and who has been for many years past devoting his life to the welfare of Malta, said, quite truly— 

Mr. DEPUTY - SPEAKER

I must remind the hon. Member that the only exception to the rule against discussing speeches in another place on the same subject is when they are in the nature of official pronouncements by Members of the Government. We must not discuss debates in the other House.

§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER

I will continue on the line which I was following, without, I hope, breaking the Rules of this House. I have the strongest possible objection to the Governor having this complete and despotic power. It has been said that it is the intention of the Government gradually to introduce a period of reform which will increase the power of the people of Malta to deal with their own affairs. An Executive Council is going to be appointed, comprising officials and nominated non-officials. That will be, if carried out, the only mitigation of the despotic rule of the Governor which will be permitted, at all events for some time to come. It is very important that we should keep right with the people of Malta. It would be of vital importance to us, if we were engaged in war, that we should have, in the Island of Malta, situated as it is in that part of the Mediterranean, a friendly people. It is, as has been said, a fortress on the way to India. One of Napoleon's great mistakes was to disregard and ignore the feelings of the people of Malta, which led them to turn against him and, in conjunction with the British, to expel him from Malta.

The Maltese are a very proud people; they are proud of their history and of their race, and we have to remember that Malta is not a ceded territory but a sister nation in the great Commonwealth of nations under the Crown of England. We are not entitled to treat Malta as a possession that we have conquered. Malta is in very much the same position as Scotland, and we must remember, too, that we are dealing with a nation, which joined England of her own accord after we had driven Napoleon out of Malta and taken the City of Valetta. The people of Malta linked themselves with us deliberately, and accepted the brotherhood and kingdom of England. We should do what we can to make a loyal population in Malta. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) referred to the Italian propaganda. That is very serious. It is being carried on deliberately, steadily, and very cleverly. Mussolini referred to Malta as "Malta nostra"—"our Malta." Although I have no personal knowledge of the fact, I am assured by friends that in that part of Italy which was formerly Austrian, in the new towns and cities which are 509 growing up, the squares and streets are given the names of places in Malta.

The idea of ultimately securing this island, situated as it is, is one of the aims of that propaganda. The way to neutralise it is to treat the Maltese in such a way as to secure their loyalty to the Throne. A very proud people, they have a splendid and interesting history. They were originally under the Saracens; from them they passed to the Normans, and for centuries they were governed by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, until, finally, they came under the British Crown. From 1090, when they were taken over by the Normans, they had a consilio popolare, a popular council. At intervals during their history they have had this popular council, and one can understand a nation that has enjoyed control of its own affairs in the way that Malta has resenting this Bill. I should like to see the Bill modified in the direction, of giving greater power to the people of Malta. We want them to have more control immediately in their own affairs instead of the proposed system of government by a form of dictatorship. 

§ 8.57 p.m. 

§ Mr. A. HENDERSON

I agree with a good deal of what was said by the last speaker, particularly as to the historical aspect of the Maltese question. It is true to say that the Maltese were never conquered by this country. The French forces in 1800 were driven out of the island by the joint efforts of the British and the Maltese troops. I hope that the Government realise the fundamental change which they seek to bring about in this Bill. When I first took it up it seemed to me to be of little importance. It is a short Bill of two Clauses and, on the face of it, very innocuous. When I looked at the 1921 Constitution, however, and compared it with the proposals of this Bill, it became clear that this is a Measure of a very revolutionary character. That may seem a strange thing to say about the Government, because so far they have not done anything of a particularly startling nature, except perhaps in the international sphere. When the Minister moved the Second Reading of the Bill he did not do his case justice with the explanation he gave. May I remind him that he is endeavouring to do something for which, so far as my limited knowledge goes, there is no pre- 510 cedent? Not only is he trying to put the clock back, but he is seeking permanently to deprive a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations of constitutional powers almost equivalent to those of Dominion status which it has enjoyed since 1921. I know of no case in the history of this country where an attempt has been made to deprive a Dominion permanently of the constitution conferred upon it by the Imperial Parliament. That is what this Bill seeks to do in the case of Malta. I should have thought that no Government would have attempted to do any such thing except in the most exceptional circumstances.

I listened to the Minister carefully in order to learn whether any very exceptional circumstances exist to justify this very revolutionary proposal, but I listened in vain. Whether the right hon. Gentleman is in the same position as his leader of having his lips sealed I do not know. Whether there are, as was suggested by the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, various questions of international policy behind the proposals, I do not know; but even if questions of the balance of power and of Imperial welfare were at stake in the Mediterranean, I have yet to learn that to deprive a proud nation like the Maltese of the right of responsible government and to replace it by what is equivalent to a benevolent form of despotism or dictatorship, is likely to increase their loyalty to the British Commonwealth of Nations. I was disappointed in listening to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild), speaking on behalf of the Liberal party, to hear him suggest that he had not much objection to this constitutional change. 

§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT

Why did the Labour party deprive Malta of its constitution? 

§ Mr. HENDERSON

I have yet to learn that they ever did. What happened in 1930 was that the Constitution was suspended, and it remained suspended for two years. It is one thing to suspend the Constitution and another thing to kill it, and I am sure that my hon. Friend does not suggest that the action of the Labour Government in 1930 in suspending the Constitution deprived Malta of a Constitution permanently. The Minister was inclined to argue that the 1921 Constitution was not sufficiently511 flexible. That statement must, I think, have been due to a misunderstanding. Is it not a fact that under Section 41 (6) of the 1921 Constitution the Maltese Legislature were given full power to alter the Constitution, except so far as the reserved points were concerned? It was originally provided that a two-thirds vote was required, and I believe that in 1928 that was altered so as to require merely a bare majority. So far as the non-reserved points were concerned, therefore, there was ample power in the Maltese Legislature to amend the Constitution. So far as the reserved points were concerned, ample power is given by Section 60 to His Majesty in Council to amend, alter or revoke any of them. Taking the two Sections together, it is not correct to say that the Constitution was not flexible and not susceptible to change.

Therefore, I hope that is not the real reason for the suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman put forward. Clause 1 of the Bill does seek to carry out a fundamental change, seeks to revert back to government by Order in Council instead of government by an elected legislature. Objection, I think, can also be taken to Clause 2, which follows the procedure embodied in the Act of 1932, and, in effect, seeks to indemnify the Governor and his advisers in respect of acts which have been carried out since 1932. In the Act of 1932 there was a similar indemnity Clause in respect of executive acts carried out between the years 1928 and 1932, and I should have thought that was definitely undesirable from a constitutional point of view. Are the Government coming periodically to this House to seek approval of executive acts the validity of which are in question? Why did not they learn from their experience in 1932? In the Preamble to the Act of 1932 it is expressly stated: Whereas it is expedient to remove doubts which have arisen as to the validity of certain of the amending Letters Patent and as to the validity of the Order in Council, Acts and Ordinances hereinafter mentioned and on looking at the First Schedule to that Act I find that indemnity is to be given in respect of a number of ordinances which were put into force during those years. After that experience in 1932 the Government come back to the House in512 1936 and ask for further indemnity in respect of ordinances put into operation during the last four years. I should have thought that hon. Members opposite who follow the profession of the law would at any rate have agreed with us on this side of the House that that is not a very strong case for asking the House to repeat what took place in 1932. To my mind it affords a strong argument against this method of government in our possessions. I suggest to the Minister that it is not sufficient to say that as time passes an attempt will be made to help the Maltese people by increasing the measure of representation on the Council which is to advise the Governor. No matter how much you increase the representation, if the Council is merely advisory you will still, in effect, have a kind of palace government, government by the Governor acting on the advice of his officials. That is inconsistent with democracy. We should not tolerate it in this country. We have made mistakes in the past. Malta may also have made mistakes in the past. The fact that we can point to weaknesses in our own form of democratic government would not be accepted as an argument for turning to a kind of Fascist government, and it is not an argument to say that because the Maltese have made mistakes in the last 10 years therefore they are not to be trusted with a form of self-government.

I hope that hon. Members on this aide of the House will record their protest against this attempt to deprive the people of Malta of a fundamental right—which at any rate is acknowledged in this country—to govern themselves in domestic matters. Even if we look upon Malta from the point of view of our Imperial interests the Minister has admitted that defence and foreign affairs are reserved matters and not within the powers of the Maltese Parliament. Therefore, even though our interests in the Mediterranean might be the reason which is at the back of this Measure it does not seem any very cogent reason for this revolutionary change. I hope that when the Division comes hon. Members on this side of the House will dissociate themselves completely from the proposals contained in this Bill. 

§ 9.11 p.m. 

Captain ALAN GRAHAM

I think those Members of the House who know 513 Malta best will agree that there was really no other course open to the Government than to discontinue responsible government there and to legalise both that and the ordinances passed which have been rendered necessary by it. While I am not one of those who believe that the very peculiar form of Constitution evolved by ourselves, a somewhat peculiar people, and suited to our traditions, temperament and climate, is necessarily at all suitable to people with quite other traditions, temperaments and climates, it does behove all of us who have the sound government of our Empire at heart to examine what were the causes for this discontinuance of responsible government. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) complained that those reasons had not been afforded to him. With a people such as the Maltese, nine-tenths of them loyal to the British Crown, industrious, intelligent, and, in the words of Napoleon's Governor of the island, General Vaubois, who was actually defeated by them, "Good natured, receptive to good treatment and easy to lead," why did responsible Government fail? In my view it failed for one essential reason: the ruling elements in the Nationalist party in Malta were not really reconciled to British rule, and thought that they had greater opportunities for their own advancement under an Italian occupation. The geographical propinquity of Italy has naturally exercised a very strong cultural influence upon Malta through its universities, schools, and seminaries for the clergy, and the ex-pupils of these cultural institutions have been—not all of them, but many of them—willing vehicles for the spread of Italian propaganda and of the utterly false Italian propaganda that Malta is Italia Irrendenta.

The Maltese people on the contrary are primarily of Carthaginian stock, and speak Italian partly for the simple reason of their propinquity to Italy, and partly because Italian has been in the past more or less of a lingua franca in that part of the Mediterranean. And these elements of the Italian intelligentsia, together with discontented lawyers, certain of the clergy who were too clever by half to be spiritual, and too ignorant—others of them—to be rational, have formed ready vehicles for this false propaganda. Their real leader was Dr. Mizzi, who has openly avowed his preference for Italian rule 514 over Malta to British, and the secretary of this so-called Nationalist party has recently been sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labour for espionage on behalf of Italy.

With His Majesty's Government or His Majesty's Opposition in Malta composed of elements such as this, I think it is not unreasonable to suggest that responsible government has not been carried on in Malta by people animated by democratic principles. That they should be suppressed for disloyalty is a logical principle followed by many of the Governments in the world, particularly that of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, which I know will warm the cockles of the heart of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), But we should be failing in our duty if we were to allow ourselves to let matters rest where they are, without inquiring what are the causes of these discontents and disloyalties. It is one of the features of our Imperial administration on which we have a right to pride ourselves, that we benefit by our special practical capacity in material things such as engineering, sanitation and commerce, especially the poorer classes in the Colonies, but we seem to be very much less happy in dealing with the educated classes in the various portions of the Empire. We do not seem to provide them with those opportunities for intellectual development that are provided for them in other Empires.

It is common knowledge throughout the French Empire that the natives of the French Colonies, however dark their colour may be, when they are educated, look upon themselves as the spiritual descendants of Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Fabre. The opposite is the case with us, yet all the time a war of cultural development or of intellectual opportunity is going on. New vehicles for the transmission of thought, such as the wireless and the cinema, have been perfected, and other nations and cultures are making vast use of those vehicles, while we hesitate and are slow to take advantage of them. If we have any faith at all in the ideas underlying our civilisation, we should be impelled to propagate them, and to use the most suitable of modern vehicles for the propagation of those ideas. Particularly is it necessary for us to utilise these 515 new methods to the maximum capacity in the Mediterranean, where we are face to face and in constant contact with two very powerful cultures, the Greek and the Latin cultures. In these days, when we have very much less material power than we had in 1914, we have all the greater need of these intellectual reinforcements. Such would be my first suggestion to remedy some of the discontents which have brought down responsible government in Malta.

My second suggestion is that our Colonial service should have a special Mediterranean section, especially trained for Malta and Cyprus, and not interchangeable with officials from East or West Africa. These two islands should be bastions of British culture in the Mediterranean, where they are faced with the rivalry of Greeks and Latins, and need, to my mind, quite other men and other methods from those which give such good service in Africa, where there are far less civilised and far less subtle populations. My third remedy flows naturally from the other two, and it is that by every means in our power we should show the Maltese intelligentsia that we do care for their welfare, and are ready to open every possible opportunity to them for identifying themselves with our Imperial institutions, whether in all three Defence Forces or in the civilian services also. Every opportunity should be taken to identify educated Maltese with British institutions throughout the Empire.

In this connection it is most earnestly to be hoped that suitable representatives of the Maltese nobility will be invited to His Majesty's Coronation next year, and that their courtesy-titles should be, as far as possible, harmonised with our own usage here. Small units lose their pettiness and parochialism only when they can feel that they are integral parts of a much greater whole, and that the greatness of the whole renders each fraction greater than when standing alone. When that attitude of mind is prevalent both here and in Malta, combined with the steady increase of progressive government, which, as the Secretary of State has indicated, is to be given to the Maltese, we have every ground for believing that then we shall have a happier Malta and a stronger and more contented Empire. 

516

§ 9.22 p.m. 

§ Commander BOWER

I must confess to a certain sense of disappointment that, when we are discussing Clause 2 of the Bill, we have not one of the learned Law Officers present. The Clause appears to raise very important questions, and doubtless there are precedents for this kind of thing. I cannot see why, when there are obviously all sorts of cases where legislation, ordinances or enactments in various parts of the Colonial Empire are held to be ultra vires, in the special case of Malta, Parliament appears to be usurping the functions of the Privy Council. Parliament has, of course, a perfect right to do so, but we ought to have a little more elucidation on this important point. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us something about it when he replies. In regard to Clause I, the effect is to remove existing limitations to the power of His Majesty's Government to revoke or amend by further Letters Patent all or any of the provisions of the Malta Constitution Letters Patent, 1921, under which the Constitution of 1921 was granted. Under the original Letters Patent, His Majesty in Council surrendered the right to legislate by Letters Patent and reserved no power to revoke the 1921 Constitution. It is now obviously sought to revoke that Constitution, and this Bill is its death knell. I should not be at all surprised if it is the death knell of responsible government in Malta. Malta is a fortress, and certain interests have to be protected. Under the Constitution of 1921, defence, as well as everything connected with the armed forces, and such things as currency, the issue of passports, restriction of aliens, etc., were reserved. This Constitution, which was devised during that orgy of so-called self-determination which followed the War, was a cumbrous and top-heavy instrument, not at all suited to the conditions of the Islands. While I do not regret the passing of that 1921 Constitution, I am not at all satisfied with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the future. It seems to me that the Government have no moral right whatever to deny representative government for one moment longer than is necessitated by a grave emergency. The whole history of the Maltese people shows that. I propose briefly to delve 517 into the history of Malta, and I hope I may be able to show that that is so.

The Islands have had a very chequered history. They were originally colonised by the Phoenicians. The Greeks followed, and they were replaced by the Carthagenians, who were Phoenician in origin. Under Rome, the Islands were raised to a great height of culture and prosperity. During the decay of the Roman Empire, they were occupied by the Vandals and the Goths, and finally by the Arabs, who apparently killed off all that survived of the Greek population. In the eleventh century Roger the Norman expelled the Saracens, and Malta became part of the Kingdom of Sicily until, after the Sicilian Vespers, it became the property of Spain and was granted to the Knights of St. John by Charles V in 1530. When the Knights of St. John went to Malta the Grand Master was met by the Popular Council, who, before opening the gates of the capital, insisted that he should guarantee their ancient rights and privileges. There is no doubt that the Popular Council which included elected representatives existed from the time of Roger the Norman, or even earlier, and continued to function in some respects under the Knights of St. John. Then Napoleon captured Malta, but after his defeat at the Battle of the Nile the Maltese population under a reconstituted Popular Council rose against the French, and the armed forces of Portugal and Britain helped the Maltese. Finally, confirmed by the Treaty of Amiens, and the Peace of Paris, the Maltese voluntarily elected to join our Empire.

Malta has always belonged, roughly speaking, to the nation which held command of the Mediterranean. The British government started various forms of regime from the autocratic government of Sir T. Maitland, who was known as "King Tom," to full blown responsible government. The Royal Commission of 1931 has some remarks to make on this subject. It says: It would be almost possible to plot a graph of the constitutional history of Malta during the last 100 years showing the rise and fall of Constitutions modelled alternately on the principle of benevolent autocracy and that of representative government. From time to time some measure of self-government was granted and then, after a period, superseded by a strict Crown Colony system. 518 That went on until 1887, when the Strickland-Mizzi Constitution was brought into force. If that is considered by the right hon. Gentleman to be an unfortunate name for the Constitution, it perhaps might be called the Delaware Constitution, after the Colonial Secretary of that time. Under that Constitution on the representative model a Council of Government was set up, composed of six officials and 14 elected members. Money votes were to be decided by the elected members only, but could only be introuced by the Governor, or on his express sanction. The disadvantage of that was that the elected members were given power without responsibility. They could dislocate the machinery of government by cutting off supplies without being called on to form an alternative government. That was possibly the most successfunl form of Constitution that Malta has had. This Constitution worked fairly well for some years, but eventually, owing to differences of opinion over the language question, the elected members became very tiresome and forced His Majesty's Government to legislate by Order in Council. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in 1901 said: It is not to be contemplated that the state of things which we all regret and which exists at the present time should continue. The elected members themselves will be ready to admit that. They cannot expect the Government responsible for this great Imperial fortress to allow this childish game to proceed, and it would be clearly the duty of any Government under these circumstances to preserve the great Imperial interests in their keeping either by going back to the Constitution before 1887 or by such a modification of that Constitution as may he necessary to give the Government a controlling voice in the administration. I make no threat—I have endeavoured to treat the question in a conciliatory way. I hope that no drastic measures may be necessary, and that the elected members and all concerned will meet mme in the same spirit in which I have endeavoured to meet them. Unfortunately, the elected members did not see eye to eye with Mr. Chamberlain, and the Constitution had to be suspended, and from 1903 until 1921 there was pure Crown Colony Government. The language question ever since has been the one burning question in Malta. The Royal Commission went into the matter thoroughly, and made some illuminating remarks in their report. Speaking of the Maltese language they said: 519 While numerous peoples have occupied the Islands for varying periods, by virtue of the sea power which they possessed in the Mediterranean, the Maltese have always maintained a tenacious hold over their own language. Necessarily with the advance of different types of civilisation and of science it has largely borrowed, like every other language, from different nations and particularly from Italian and in recent times from English sources, but its main basis has remained. Professor Sir Themistocles Zammit, in his evidence before the commission, said: Every child from the lowest to the highest talks nothing but Maltese. In intercourse with everybody in the Island, Maltese alone is used. I have never heard anybody talking Italian or English in a private house except those who are indirectly connected with the Italians or with the English people. So you cannot ignore Maltese, especially as a language for a child to graft upon it another language. The Royal Commission also say: Italian was used for all notarial documents, having gradually superseded Latin. The Grand Master of the Knights, Emmanuel de Rohan, in 1784, incorporated the Code of Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena, dated 15th November, 1723, and added much of his own, including various legal customs. His Code is still treated with great respect in the Maltese Courts. In 1826, Sir George Cornewall Lewis and Mr. Austin, Royal Commissioners, suggested that Italian should remain the official language, on the ground that Italian was of chief service to trade in the Mediterranean. At that time there was no emigration to English-speaking countries and no world-wide trade to the Mediterranean Sea. The small educated class of the Maltese speak English and Italian, nearly all of them both languages, in addition to their native Maltese. Maltese is the language of most of the sermons, in the shops, markets, streets, and public meetings, on election platforms, and in a growing vernacular Press. Italian has its chief footing in the University, law, medicine, and the Church, but it is not known by the majority of the people. The whole trouble in Malta has been the attempt of a small but influential clique of Maltese to force Latinity on the Maltese people. Not more than 15 per cent. of the Maltese speak Italian. A great many more speak English, and, as I have said, they all speak Maltese without exception. The enormous influence of the Church has of course, rather naturally, but none the less regrettably, been entirely on the side of Italian. Then, again, there are complications due to inter-marriage; Italian-speaking Maltese in many cases marry Italians, and so on. 520 I am sorry to say it has been the fashion of the Colonial Office to deny that there is any real, substantial anti-British feeling in Malta, but I submit to the House that recent events have rather shown that idea to be false. The Royal Commission, referring to Mr. made some remarks with which I am bound to say I disagree. They said: It does not appear that Dr. Enrico Mizzi has ever made any secret of the fact that under certain circumstances he would favour stronger connection with Italy, but he has been and may again serve as a Minister in Malta.… We mention this subject because so much has been made of it, and we consider that the accusation of disloyalty against the Nationalist Party is incorrect and largely founded on rumour and surmise. We are not aware how far the Government of Italy, a great and friendly country closely allied to Great Britain in so many ways, may be cognisant of any activities in Malta, but, if any activities are undesirable, your Majesty's Government would doubtless take any necessary steps in the matter. I would point out that His Majesty's Government have done nothing else for the last three or four months but deport Italians almost daily. Mr. Delia, an ex-member of the Legislative Assembly, and the Secretary of the Nationalist Party, who acted for some time as the Maltese equivalent of Parliamentary Private Secretary to Sir Ugo Mifsud, was sentenced only the other day to three years' hard labour for espionage in the interests of Italy. I feel that, although Lord Strickland and his party have been accused very often of unduly playing the harp on their loyalty, and on the disloyalty of the other side, there is a great deal more in it than has hitherto been suspected.

The 1921 Constitution broke down twice, first under Lord Strickland's administration, when he became involved in a dispute with the Church. I have no desire to rake up the ashes of a fortunately dead, or at least dying, controversy. As the House knows, the Royal Commission was appointed, and reported in favour of immediate elections being held, with the result that in 1932 the opposition party to Lord Strickland were elected. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that the Church again exercised a lot of very undue influence. In my maiden speech in this House in 1932 I quoted the case of a parish priest who went round from door to door telling illiterate Maltese that, if they voted for Lord Strickland, an angry god would send worms and 521 insects to devour their crops. Any number of instances of that sort, perfectly well authenticated, could be given. 

§ Mr. LOGAN

There were one or two people who took the same attitude in regard to the Tories not getting in in the City of Liverpool. 

§ Commander BOWER

In 1932 the question of language was reserved, and the Government decided to put into force the recommendation of the Royal Commission that Italian should cease to be the language of the elementary schools, but that Maltese and English should be taught in the elementary schools and that English should be the qualifying language for admission to the secondary schools. This was done. It was accepted with a very ill grace by the Maltese Ministry, and the moment I saw that Mr. Mizzi had been appointed Minister of Education I knew there would be trouble. The Maltese Nationalist Government set themselves out to nullify the language regulations in every possible way. They were warned time and again. I know many of them very well. Some of them came over here, and I told them that it could only result in the suspension of the Constitution; but they all said, "No; look what happened in Ireland. We have only to dig our heels in, and we shall be all right." They would not take any advice, and the result was that the Constitution was suspended again.

Crown Colony Government has certainly done much, and, with Maltese now in use as the language of the law and Italian eliminated from the elementary schools, I think the irritating language question is now almost settled. It may be said that responsible or representative Government cannot be restored in Malta while existing personalities are still living in politics in Malta, but I do not agree with that. I think that any kind of constitution must be personality-proof. I think that, if in the due course of nature Lord Strickland and Mr. Mizzi are both removed to what we may hope will be a higher sphere, there is no guarantee that other people will not arise who will be just as arduous political opponents as they have been in the past. I have heard it suggested in this House that Lord Strickland, for instance, would have been better employed had he, on retiring from a very distinguished Colonial career, be- 522 come an Elder Statesman in Malta, but there again I do not agree; I do not see why he should. The experience of the last few days in this House has shown us how difficult it is to persuade our Elder Statesmen to forsake the cut and thrust, the rough and tumble of politics for a duller and calmer Nestorian role. I fully recognise the difficulties, but during the whole of last century Malta has alternated between representative Government, Crown Colony Government, back to representative Government, back to Crown Colony Government again, and so on, and I cannot agree that because, so far, a satisfactory form of Government has not been found, we should stop trying; nor can I agree with the expression of the Government's policy which gives no guarantee that there is going to be representative or responsible Government within a decent lapse of time. I think that it ought to be given at once. After all, the Constitution has now been suspended for over two years, and there is no doubt whatever that the Maltese people, and particularly the educated classes, are gravely concerned about this. I have spoken to many of them quite recently, and they feel a sense of injury. They realise, as we do, the difficulties and the troubles, but they think they ought to be given another chance, and I must say I agree.

In conclusion, I would like to say just two words which I hope may perhaps meet the eyes of some of my friends in Malta. To the Church I would say that the Church in Malta wields an influence far in excess of that granted to it by Canon Law, and I think it should beware of the fate of the Church in other lands where such influence has not always been wisely used. To the Nationalist party, many of whom are personal friends of mine and for whom I have a great regard, I would say, "You loudly assert your loyalty. Very well; prove it by turning out the disloyal element, and have nothing to do with them." To the Maltese as a whole I would say, "Remember that, although you are a little nation, you are yet a great nation with a very proud history. You entered voluntarily into our great Commonwealth. Try to develop yourselves politically, so that you may play a great part in a great future." 

523

§ 9.45 p.m. 

§ Mr. MARKHAM

We have just listened to a speech so packed with learning and local knowledge that one can almost congratulate the speaker on being a Royal Commission in himself. My hon. and gallant Friend has given a most excellent answer to the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I listened to that speech very carefully indeed, and my impression of it was that hon. Members opposite were being urged to oppose the Bill not upon its merits but simply as a party action. The speech that we have just heard has pointed out conclusively that, if we adopt that policy with regard to the treatment of our Colonies, we are going to have a series of muddles such as we have experienced in Ireland, and probably only just avoided in India, and I would appeal to hon. Members opposite not to treat this from a party standpoint at all. The hon. Member for Caerphilly asked what were the reasons for revoking or amending the Constitution, and professed his entire inability to find them. He has heard them since. He has heard of this deliberate subsidisation, by a professedly friendly Power working against the British Government by every corrupt means, of the so-called loyal members of the Maltese governing party. [An Hon. MEMBER: "Why did not the Minister mention it?"] It is the duty of a Minister of the Crown to be on as good terms as possible with every shade of opinion in the Crown Colonies. On the other hand, it is the duty of every Member of the House, and of the Government as a whole, to resent attempts by foreign Powers to undermine British strength, especially in our islands such as Malta.

We have heard the evidence of my hon. and gallant Friend who has just spoken. May I add a little to it? Early this year I was travelling through Italy, and on the bookstalls you could see literature of the kind that was seen in Germany just before the War, when you had maps showing Mittel Europa, with Germany ever extending itself. On the Italian bookstalls you see maps showing an Italy which includes territory at the moment under the control of friendly Powers, and my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) made a distinct point of the Italian boast that in the near future Malta would once again be Italian. There has been a 524 deliberate underground campaign on the part of Italy to subsidise and pervert this 15 per cent. of the population of Malta with the ultimate idea of securing Italian control. It has been going on for some years and I regret exceedingly that neither the Government of Malta nor the Government of this country has found a means of legitimately combating the corruption that has been going on. The hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) made a remark about the Maltese nation. There never has been a Maltese nation. It has always been a subject Power, always cringing to some other Power than the one it happend to be under at the moment, in the hope of personal gain. That is the whole history of Malta.

I cannot too strongly support the remarks that have been made of the strength, especially the financial strength, of Italian propaganda for the so-called loyal Maltese which has been going on for many years. If there were no other reason than that for supporting the amendment, or even the revocation, of the Constitution of 1921, I fancy that that reason alone would carry some conviction to Members of the House. But there is another reason. The hon. Member for Caerphilly made the point that the attitude of this Government and, perhaps, preceding Governments in dealing with Crown Colonies was one of going back to ever greater autocracy and reversing democratic tendencies. That is absolutely false. He must know as well as anyone else that, in the case of Newfoundland, the Constitution was suspended at the request of the Prime Minister and of the people themselves, and it was at that democratic request that we sent out a Commission and made the required amendments. He also mentioned Suva, in Fiji. At whose request were those alterations made? They were made not at the request of Whitehall, but of Fiji. As against those two cases you have the cases of Egypt, Iraq, and recently India. where we have been extending the responsible power to people formerly under our more autocratic control. That is the tendency.

But the main reason that I would urge for supporting this is that there has been great harm done in the past through this see-saw policy from Whitehall with regard to the control of our Colonies, 525 and even of the Dominions. There has been a, switchback over a century between benevolent autocracy and radical democracy. In this case the engine seems to have been reversed, but it was not a National or Conservative Government that did the reversing from democracy to autocracy. It was the Labour Government, and it is because they had the courage to take the first step to put an end to a noxious evil that I ask them to support this Bill. Not a single speaker on that side has said he wants to go back to the Constitution of 1921 without change. Not a single speaker on that side has said he wants the continuance of the present autocratic governorship. They agree that a change is needed. This Bill gives you every opportunity of change that you want. You can amend or revoke, and if that party gets into power in the next five years, it can make any change it wishes. 

§ 9.55 p.m. 

§ Mr. KELLY

Judging by the speeches to which we have listened, one would imagine that there are very few people in Malta who are not prepared to sell this country. The last speech will do a great deal of harm there and I wish it had never been delivered. I can hardly recognise the people whom I represented for a number of years, from the hon. Member's description. You will find in Malta many men employed in the dockyards, employed on the civilian side of the military establishment and employed by the Air Ministry, who are equal to the best that is to be found in this or any other country. Judging by the statements that we have heard to-night, you would imagine that every one was disloyal and that there were few who could be depended upon. [Tim MEMBERS: "No!"] We have heard very little else. 

§ Mr. MARKHAM

That is a gross travesty. I said it was only 15 per cent. of the population, and that 15 per cent. consisted to a great extent of the intelligentsia. I wish no aspersion to be cast on those who are working in the dockyards or in the Government Departments. 

§ Mr. KELLY

I accept that statement, but it is vastly different from the one to which I listened, when I heard the Maltese described as people who were always cringing and subject to others. 526 That was a statement contrary to everything which I know of those people, with whom I have been associated for years in their efforts to improve their position and standard of living and to raise the general condition of the working people in that part of the world. Tonight we are asked to agree to this Measure, which deals, among other things, with the appointment of judges and with the fact that the trade unions of Malta have representation in the Council. Not a word of explanation of these matters was given by the Minister. He kept very closely to a draft which appeared to have been handed out to him, but there was not a word with regard to the Sections which we are asked to-night to agree to repeal. One Section deals with reserve matters, another with the judges, and a third with the Trades Union Council. I have known that ever since the Trades Union Council was given representation the idea has never been liked by His Majesty's Government. There have been great difficulties in the past with regard to the choice of persons from the trade unions in the island to represent the people with whom they work.

I would ask the Minister to explain why we are being asked to-night to agree to the repeal of those particular Sections, 1 to 4. Why are we being asked to agree to legalise ordinances without being told what they are? Are hon. Members to go into the Lobby in response to the appeal to vote for the Bill without knowing what the Bill lays down? There has been no explanation by the Minister as to the ordinances about which very grave doubt is felt at the present time. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). There was a time when the party of which he is a Member were believers in freedom, but to-night we have had a statement made in the nature of an appeal to the Government to set up some form of benevolent despotism that may take the people of Malta along the road to somewhere. 

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

That is an entire travesty of the statement that I made to the House. I wish to contradict the statement of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) here and now. I did not say that I was in favour of any kind of despotism, but I pointed out to the right hon. Gentleman, that if there was 527 any despotism at all, I hoped that it would be benevolent. I hope that before you put the question, Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman will answer several questions which I have put to him to-night. 

§ Mr. KELLY

I accept the statement of the hon. Member, but I took down the words, and he made use of the term "benevolent despotism." The muzzling of the Press and the suppression of the people in Malta make it impossible to secure an expression of opinion with regard to the action which is now being taken by His Majesty's Government in this Bill. It is serious indeed that people who have acted so well towards this country and done so well in its service should not have an opportunity of expressing themselves as to the form of government and the method of administration to be operated over their lives. I trust that hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members on the opposite side will have regard for the good government and name of this country and go into the Lobby against this Bill. 

§ 10.2 p.m. 

§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS

I want to supplement the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) earlier in the Debate. He submitted to the House that no justifiable reasons have been given for the complete revocation of the Constitution of 1921. He tried to imagine four or five reasons or excuses that might have been applied, but none of these applies to the position at the moment. Notwithstanding the statements made by certain hon. Members opposite and the fervent appeal of the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham), we are still wanting a true explanation of the introduction of this Measure. This country was more or less in charge of Malta for about 100 years, and it was only in 1921 that it conceded a Constitution in which self-government in regard to local affairs was made permissible.

I would ask not only the Minister but the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Nottingham and other hon. Members sitting opposite whether they can justify the statement that the Maltese, in the Legislative Assembly between 1921 and 1930, failed in any particular. If the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Nottingham, who appears to be so 528 interested in this problem, could point to any particular incident between 1921 and 1930, until religion intervened, where the then Legislative Assembly failed, there would be some justification for the belief that he advanced this evening. I do not think that the Minister, the hon. Gentleman, or any other hon. Member in this House can advance one instance where the popularly elected Legislative Assembly failed to fulfil its function during those nine years.

It was in 1930 that the first serious trouble began, when the Labour Government were obliged temporarily to suspend the Constitution, not because the Nationalist party or the Constitutional party or the Labour party had exceeded their powers, or because the Assembly failed in any way to fulfil the functions for which it had been elected, but because of outside influences which had intervened to serve the Maltese. It was not because of Italian propaganda or any other external influence, apart from that of the Church. 

§ Mr. MARKHAM

The hon. Member has given his whole case away by admitting that it was outside influence that dominated Maltese politics during the period in question. If he will refresh his memory by reading the Debates in this House in 1930 he will find my point very fully borne out.

§ Mr. WILLIAMS

The hon. Member must give us credit not only for having read the Debates, but for having paid attention to the question before 1930 and subsequently. I said that the Legislative Assembly of Malta, a popularly elected body, as such failed in no material particular to fulfil the functions for which it was elected, but that an outside body, namely, the Church, intervened and disturbed the peaceful political situation. Following the suspension of the Constitution in 1930 the Royal Commission was set up and the Constitution was restored in 1932. Then the language question brought about a second suspension of the Constitution in 1933. That really is no justification for the revocation of the Constitution. In the nine years during which the Legislative Assembly was in operation I witnessed with my own eyes the good work that it was doing. I have had the good fortune to be in Malta three times during the past seven or eight years. I saw the Maltese Legisla- 529 tive Assembly building working-class houses out of revenue. No interest mongers were making money out of the Maltese people. That is a thing perhaps never hitherto done by any British Government or any official or unofficial council representing that country. I saw schools in the course of erection, and children being educated, between 1921 and 1930. For about 100 years children had had no educational facilities afforded. I saw social institutions developing. I saw that small island beginning to live in reality. When hon. Members tell me that the Maltese Parliament has been a hopeless and lamentable failure, I say that that statement is inconsistent with the whole of the facts.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the strategic influence of Malta is something that this House cannot ignore, but I am not sure that it is full justification for the complete revocation of representative government, or that it is a justification for returning to Crown Colony government. There has been no promise from the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in another place, or from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, that in any reasonable time the hope even of unofficial members of the Council being popularly elected will be realised. What does that imply? It means that the Governor will have full power to appoint his officials. I gather that there are lots of people in Malta, where professional jobs are not too numerous, who are anxious to obtain situations under the new regime, and at the moment they are perfectly quiet.

The Governor always in the case of Malta is an ex-General of the Army, virtually appointed by the Army Council. He will have full power to appoint the unofficial members of the Executive Council. I would ask the Minister and members of the House generally what is likely to be the type of person that a General will appoint as an unofficial member of the Executive Council. Is it likely that the General Governor or the Governor-General, whatever he may be called, will think in terms of a Labour member? The very life that he lives will compel him almost inevitably to look upon the average trade unionist or member of the Labour party as he looks upon a private in the Army. It is fair to assume that once this Measure has been passed Labour or trade union representation in the Island of 530 Malta will have gone almost for all time. Therefore, in view of our experience in the past, which is a fairly good guide for the future, we can have little or no confidence in the situation that this Bill will create.

A member of the Legislative Assembly, who had represented his country and was a loyal member of the British Commonwealth, was convicted because he had books in his possession written by George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells. That conviction still remains. No Colonial Secretary out of the last three or four has attempted to remove that conviction, a conviction merely because a respected. member of the Legislative Assembly, elected by the people through the ordinary agency of the popular vote, had books of that description on his bookshelf. I would ask the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Markham) whether that is the sort of government that he thinks ought to exist in Malta? Is that the form of government that he regards as democratic and suitable for 1936 7 During the nine years that the Maltese people were able to elect their own representatives, not to deal with strategic points or questions of the Army or Navy but to deal with social questions which touched the daily needs of their own people, it cannot be denied that they made real progress in regard to housing, and that they developed their educational system.

I do not know whether I am wrong.—the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am—but I think that when the Maltese were given self-government in 1921, after 100 years of British government, they had 80 per cent, of illiteracy, but by 1930, after only nine years of self-government, they had a system of compulsory education. If it was not absolute and covering the whole of the children between five and 14, at all events the system was well on its way. To the extent that they had attempted to do something to educate their people they had justified a better fate for themselves than, this Bill will provide. Social insurance, compensation, and things that matter so much for the worker will be left to be dealt with, not by the individuals who have secured the franchise of the people and to represent their desires and aspirations, but to the executive council appointed by the Governor. 531 If the right hon. Gentleman had satisfied the House that the 1921 Constitution -was so intricate and difficult, that the Governor could not attend five different bodies where the Maltese language was, spoken, that other difficulties existed and that the Constitution no longer met the situation, and that he was willing fairly quickly to revise or amend the Constitution and make it more consistent with modern needs, perhaps there would have been no disagreement with his proposals, and we could turn ourselves into a Council of State so far as Malta is concerned, but if the mere revocation of the 1921 Constitution means a return to the pre-1921 position, when the workers were suppressed, held down, left uneducated, without decent houses and without opportunities for organisation, without any of those things which enable them to express themselves freely, we must oppose the Government on this Bill.

I hope the right hon. Gentleman is going to tell us what are the real reasons for the revocation of the Constitution apart from the fears of 15 per cent, of the residents in Malta; to what extent Italian influence and propaganda is responsible for this step, and what steps the Foreign Office have taken to invite the Italians to cease their propaganda. Also, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what date he has in mind at which to allow the unofficial members of the Executive Council to be elected by the people and not appointed by the Governor? That is fundamental. I have a letter here from the Labour party in Malta, not an irresponsible party, but a party which secured the election of five members to the Legislative Assembly out of a total membership of 32. They have helped to govern the country in two periods during nine years, and have rendered good service. They ask us quite justifiably to see that they are not for all time deprived of the right to vote and elect their own representatives to look after their own interests, and to level legitimate criticism against the administration when it is failing in its duty to the people of this small island. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give us the date he has in mind when the unofficial members will be popularly elected. In the absence of any reply we shall be obliged to vote against the Second Reading. 

532

§ 10.18 p.m. 

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

Let me say at the outset that I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that the Labour representatives in the Maltese Parliament were among the best and most useful members of the Assembly. While on this point let me deal with the question which has exercised the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), in regard to Sub-section (2) of Clause 3, with reference to trade union representation. It is rather a complicated point. When the new Constitution of 1921 was formed it was decided, quite apart from any representation which Labour might get from the electorate in the Legislative Assembly, to give them two reserved seats in the Senate. Accordingly, two seats were specially reserved for a trade union council, This was done with a certain gift of prophecy or hope, because at that time there was no trade union council in Malta. Consequently one had to be brought into existence for the purpose of electing these two representatives to the Senate of Malta. The object of this is to prepare the way and enable the Government freely to alter the Constitution of Malta. If the Senate is to be abolished—and I say frankly it is the intention to abolish the Senate—then the specific provisions in the original Letters Patent, amended in the Act of 1932, must be got out of the way by this Bill, otherwise we shall be in the position that there will be on the Statute Book a provision for a Trade Union Council created ad hoc solely for the purpose of choosing two members in a Senate which no longer exists. What I want to make clear to the hon. Member is that that does not mean that the Trade Union Council in Malta ceases to exist or ceases to be effective for ordinary trade union purposes. May I make that clear to the House and to everybody in Malta? There is no intention to do that, and I certainly hope that body will continue to do its appropriate trade union work and support the interests of its members.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) was anxious that I should reply to one or two specific points. I think he was the first in this Debate to do what I did not do at the beginning—for reasons to which, I think, one of the 533 hon. Members on this side referred—that is, allude specifically to Italian propaganda. Nobody can deny that, particularly during the last years, one of the causes of difficulty, one of the problems that faces the Governor of Malta has been the intensification of Italian propaganda. One can never get away from that fact in considering this Bill to-night. I do not say it is the only reason, but it is one of the factors of the situation, in view of the general position in the Mediterranean and Malta. The case has been alluded to to-night of a prominent Maltese politician, taking an active part in the political life of Malta, having just been sentenced for espionage. If there were an election to-morrow in Malta all these questions would inevitably be raised, and yet at the same time, under the Constitution of 1921, all questions affecting the defence and external affairs of Malta are reserved matters and have nothing to do with the electorate of Malta. That is the absurdity of the dyarchic position.

The absurdity of the dyarchic Constitution of 1921 in Malta is the fact that it attempted to draw a line between matters of local concern—and I count as being purely local such things as social progress, the building of houses and so on—and other matters which could not in political practice be effectively drawn. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Don Valley used the very phrase which comes to one's mind in this matter. Frankly I would not have used that phrase in this particular connection. He said everything went well until there was the intervention of an outside body. Everything, he said, went well on the local government side until the intervention of an outside body, and when asked what was the outside body, he said it was the Roman Catholic Church. But the Roman Catholic Church is the established church of Malta. It is the church of the overwhelming mass of the people of the island. He described that as an outside body. It is both an inside and an outside body, but that is where a dyarchy is so limited.

There is the question of education. Obviously, the erection of schools is a purely local concern, raising no external question or no question of defence. But the question of whether Italian, English or Maltese is to be taught in schools is 534 not a purely local question; it is an Imperial question. That is why I say that, whatever constitution may be developed in Malta in the future, I hope profoundly it will not be a dyarchic constitution. And when the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) asks why it is desired to abolish the Constitution in Malta my reply is—because dyarchy is impracticable in Malta, having regard to the character of the island. It is the greatest mistake to imagine that you can have a single pattern constitution which is capable of being applied to every colony. I think there are about 50 colonial constitutions in the Empire and each varies from the others in some particular. Other Empires have sought to impose a stereotyped and uniform type of Constitution on all their colonies, but I do not think there is a single British colony, protectorate or mandated territory, the Constitution of which is identical with any of the others. They vary according to local conditions. None of them—apart from a few very old colonies such as the Bahamas, the Barbados, and the Bermudas which have remained practically unchanged for 300 years—retains exactly the same form of Constitution for great periods of time. They vary from time to time.

The hon. Gentleman opposite asks for an assurance that the present rigid form of Crown Colony Constitution in Malta, which obtains owing to the suspension of the former Constitution, will soon disappear. I cannot say, and nobody speaking from this Box could say, exactly when or attempt to give a date. I have already said that it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to begin once again on the recurring problem of Constitution making for Malta—to begin, admittedly, in the way in which the first restoration was begun by the association of electoral with nominated elements. But I must be the judge of the conditions in regard to the Mediterranean and in regard to the fortress, and of the political and other situations in Malta, in considering when it is desirable to reintroduce the system of election. As I said, I hope it may be possible to reintroduce a system of election for the unofficial side of the new Legislative Council. That is my intention, but I must reserve judgment as to when that is to be done, in the light of the conditions on the island. 535 The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely referred to wireless sets, but I think he misunderstood the position. He said that the introduction of the wireless in Malta had resulted in the constant reiteration of Italian propaganda from Italy into Malta. As a matter of fact, we have been making every effort to counteract that, and the introduction of the 1,000 wireless sets, to which I think the hon. Member referred, so far from having been an accident, was deliberately arranged by a company with which I think the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) is associated in this country, namely, Wireless Relays, Limited, who have made great efforts to co-operate, not only with the Maltese Government but with leading Maltese citizens, to introduce the British Broadcasting Corporation's Empire programmes by means of relays for the people of Malta who desire to have it; and much has it been appreciated. It is quite unfair to draw an indictment against any politician in Malta, whether Lord Strickland, Dr. Mizzi, or anybody else. Malta has had a somewhat stormy political past. Do not let us imagine that everything was uniform and stable for centuries, or even for the century since the British connection with Malta before 1921, that nothing very much happened, that then everything went well for a bit, and that then there was trouble. The whole story of Malta is a stormy story.

I am confident that the association of Britain and Malta is still most emphatically desired by the overwhelming mass of the Maltese people. It is true that there is a minority of the intelligentsia who would prefer Fascist Italy, who are tremendously affected by Fascist propaganda, but I am quite convinced that the overwhelming mass of the people do desire to continue to be associated with us, and I do not believe that there is a deep-seated sense of grievance among them that the 1921 Constitution, which has twice been abandoned, is now going to be abolished. The hon. Member opposite asked me about the case of a man who, he said, had been sentenced in Malta, and tried, and kept in prison, for possessing the works of George Bernard Shaw. 

§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS

I did not say he was sent to prison. I said he was con- 536 victed and taken to the prison gates, and that there the Governor discharged his prison liability, and he was allowed to return home, but the conviction remained, merely because he had those books in his possession. 

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

I do not think that is a very severe indictment. I understand he was not convicted because he possessed the works of Shaw, but because of quite other things in his possession, and that it was merely a sort of joking report that he also possessed the works of Bernard Shaw. But does it not suggest itself to the hon. Member that the fact that the Governor did not allow him even to serve a day's imprisonment, and that his sentence was wiped out immediately, shows that it is not a very good case to bring as an example of the brutality of British rule in Malta? 

§ Mr. BRACKEN

Will my right hon. Friend tell us of any other instance where the final administration of justice is in the hands of the prison governor? 

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

It had nothing to do with the prison governor. It was the Governor of Malta, who alone exercises the prerogative of mercy. As a result of this Debate we have had from this side of the House two speeches to which I think I ought to pay a special tribute, namely those of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cleveland (Commander Bower) who served many years in Malta and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirral (Captain Graham). I have some sympathy with the feelings of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wirral on the question of the relation of administration and education. It is a matter that requires the most careful consideration of anyone in my position, and I feel that we must keep the closest eye on it, because not only there, but in every colony and protectorate, it is not mere administration of justice, it is not mere economic development, it is not mere improvement of the conditions of the working classes, it is not mere facilities for trade and commerce that count in colonial administration in the long run. It is the development of those things which are on the cultural and spiritual side which tie peoples not of our race to us throughout the Colonial Empire. It is on the cultural and the higher educational 537 side where, although we may fail, we ought to make a real effort, and I was delighted that my hon. and gallant Friend spoke on that matter. It is because of this Bill and what may follow it in a new Constitution, that I want to assure both this House and the Maltese people that on the cultural side we do want to understand them and to associate them with us and do all we can on that side. I know that many of them have been long associated with Italian culture. Many of them are attracted by the new phases of Italian culture that have developed in Italy in the last few years. [An HON. MEMBER: "Culture?"] That is how they regard it. We do want to give them the best of our culture and link it up with their great historical culture. I am sure that in that spirit we can go forward to a new Constitution of Malta, and by passing this Bill we shall have done a good day's work for the island. 

538

§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer the specific question which I put to him, namely, is it the policy of the Government to deny Malta for all time a responsible Government, as was said in another place'? 

§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE

I never said that. [HON. MEMBERS: "It was said in the other House."] "Deny for all time"—I do not quite know what those words mean, and I cannot on the spur of the moment answer vague, general phrases of that kind. I have defined my position to-night by an answer which, I thought, had made the position quite clear.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question." 

The House divided: Ayes, 176; Noes, 129. 

Division No. 264.]

AYES.

[10.42 p.m.

Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.

Eckersley, P. T.

Levy, T.

Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)

Edmondson, Major Sir J.

Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.

Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)

Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.

Lloyd, G. W.

Anstruther-Gray, W. J.

Ellis, Sir G.

Loftus, P. C.

Aske, Sir R. W.

Elliston, G. S.

Lyons, A. M.

Assheton, R.

Emery, J. F.

MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.

Atholl, Duchess of

Emmott, C. E. G. C.

MacDonald Rt. Hn. J. R. (Scot. U.)

Baldwin-Webb, Col. j.

Emrys-Evans, P. V.

MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)

Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)

Entwistle, C. F.

Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)

Barclay-Harvey, C. M.

Erskine Hill, A. G.

McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.

Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.

Everard, W. L.

McKie, J. H.

Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury)

Fleming, E. L.

Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.

Birchall, Sir J. D.

Fremantle, Sir F. E.

Magnay, T.

Bird, Sir R. B.

Furness, S. N.

Maitland, A.

Blair, Sir R.

Ganzoni, Sir J.

Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.

Bossom, A. C.

Goodman, Col. A. W.

Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.

Boulton, W. W.

Gower, Sir R. V.

Markham, S. F.

Bower, Comdr. R. T.

Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)

Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.

Bracken, B.

Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)

Mellor, Sir R. J. (Mitcham)

Braithwaite, Major A. N.

Guest. Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Drake)

Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)

Brocklebank, C. E. R.

Guinness, T. L. E. B.

Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)

Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)

Guy, J. C. M.

Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R.

Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)

Hannah, I. C.

Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T. C.

Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)

Hannon, Sir P. J. H.

Morrison, W. S. (Cirencester)

Bull, B. B.

Harbord, A.

Munro, P.

Campbell, Sir E. T.

Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)

Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.

Carver, Major W. H.

Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.

Nicolson, Hon. H. G.

Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)

Heneage, Lieut,-Colonel A. P.

O'Connor, Sir Terence J.

Channon, H.

Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)

O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh

Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)

Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.

Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.

Clarry, Sir Reginald

Hopkinson, A.

Orr-Ewing, I. L.

Colman, N. C. D.

Horsbrugh, Florence

Palmer, G. E. H.

Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)

Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)

Penny, Sir G.

Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'rS.G'gs)

Hulbert, N. J.

Perkins, W. R. D.

Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)

Hume, Sir G. H.

Petherick, M.

Craddock, Sir R. H.

Hunter, T.

Plugge, L. F.

Craven-Ellis, W.

Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.

Porritt, R. W.

Crooke, J. S.

Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)

Radford, E. A.

Crookshank, Capt. H. F. [...].

Keeling, E. H.

Ramsden, Sir E.

Croom-Johnson, R. P.

Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)

Rankin, R.

Cross, R. H.

Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)

Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)

Crowder, J. F. E.

Kimball, L.

Reed, A. C. (Exeter)

Cruddas, Col. B.

Kirkpatrick, W. M.

Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)

Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)

Lamb, Sir J. Q.

Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)

Dawson, Sir P.

Latham, Sir P.

Ropner, Colonel L.

Dower, Capt. A. V. G.

Leckie, J. A.

Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)

Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)

Leech, Dr. J. W.

Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.

Duncan, J. A. L.

Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L.

Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)

Salmon, Sir I.

Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)

Touche, G. C.

Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)

Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.

Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.

Sanderson, Sir F. B.

Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)

Wakefield, W. W.

Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.

Storey, S.

Waterhouse, Captain C.

Scott, Lord William

Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)

Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.

Shakespeare, G. H.

Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)

Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)

Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)

Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)

Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.

Simmonds, O. E.

Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.

Womersley, Sir W. J.

Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'[...]'st),

Tasker, Sir R. I.

 

Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.

Tate, Mavis C.

TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—

Smith, L. W. (Hallam)

Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)

Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert

Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)

Thomson, Sir J. D. W.

Ward and Sir James Blindell.

NOES.

 

 

Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)

Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)

Oliver, G. H.

Adams, D. (Consett)

Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)

Paling, W.

Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)

Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)

Parker, J.

Adamson, W. M.

Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)

Parkinson, J. A.

Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)

Hardie, G. D.

Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.

Ammon, C. G.

Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)

Potts, J.

Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)

Henderson, J. (Ardwick)

Pritt, D. N.

Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.

Henderson, T. (Tradeston)

Quibell, D. J. K.

Banfield, J. W.

Hills, A. (Pontefract)

Richards, R. (Wrexham)

Barnes, A. J.

Holdsworth, H.

Riley, B.

Barr, J.

Holland, A.

Ritson, J.

Batey, J.

Hollins, A.

Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)

Bellenger, F.

Hopkin, D.

Rothschild, J. A. de

Broad, F. A.

Jagger, J.

Rawson, G.

Bromfield, W.

Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)

Salter, Dr. A.

Brooke, W.

John, W.

Seely, Sir H. M.

Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)

Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.

Sexton, T. M.

Burke, W. A.

Jones, A. C. (Shipley)

Shinwell, E.

Chater, D.

Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)

Short. A.

Cluse, W. S.

Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)

Silkin, L.

Cove, W. G.

Kelly, W. T.

Simpson, F. B.

Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford

Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.

Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)

Dagger, G.

Kirby, B. V.

Smith, E. (Stoke)

Dalton, H.

Kirkwood, D.

Sorensen, R. W.

Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)

Lathan, G.

Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)

Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)

Lawson, J. J.

Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)

Day, H.

Leach, W.

Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)

Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)

Lee, F.

Thurtle, E.

Ede, J. C.

Leonard, W.

Tinker, J. J.

Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)

Leslie, J. R.

Viant, S. P.

Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)

Logan, D. G.

Watson, W, McL.

Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)

Lunn, W.

Welsh, J. C.

Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.

McEntee, V. La T.

Westwood, J.

Foot, D. M.

McGhee, H. G.

While, H. Graham

Frankel, D.

Maclean, N.

Wilkinson, Ellen

Gallacher, W.

Mainwaring, W. H.

Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)

Gardner, B. W.

Mander, G. le M.

Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)

Garro Jones, G. M.

Marklew, E.

Williams, T. (Don Valley)

George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)

Messer, F.

Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)

Gibbins, J.

Milner, Major J.

Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)

Graham, D. M. (Hamllton)

Montague, F.

Woods, G. S, (Finsbury)

Green, W. H. (Deptford)

Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)

 

Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.

Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)

TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—

Grenfell, D. R.

Naylor, T. E.

Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mothers.

Bill read a Second time.

539

§ Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for To-morrow.—[Captain Margesson.]

 

1937

THE CORONATION.

Page retrieved: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1937/apr/06/the-coronation

HC Deb 06 April 1937 vol 322 cc19-20 19

§ 32. Mr. Viant asked the hon. Member for Ipswich, as Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, whether he and his committee, when fixing the price of 3s. 6d. for breakfast and 10s. 6d. for lunch on Coronation day, had overlooked the means of the ordinary Member whose salary of £400 does not permit him to meet such a charge; and will he ask his committee to reconsider the subject with a view to offering alternative meals at a moderate charge? 

§ Sir John Ganzoni

Representatives of all parties were present when the committee fixed the prices for breakfast and luncheons on Coronation day. After giving due consideration to the increased cost, purchase and hire of equipment and the large amount of extra wages to be paid, it was decided that 3s. 6d. and 10s. 6d. were the lowest that could possibly be charged, and even then the committee are faced with the possibility of a loss. The hon. Member's attention is directed to the notices which state that light refreshments will be obtainable in the Terrace Smoking Room. 

§ Mr. Thorne

Will the hon. Member consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a view to a grant? 

§ Sir William Davison

Can the hon. Member say what facilities there will be for leaving the Abbey in order to partake of the meals?

§ 50. Commander Bower asked the Lord President of the Council whether, having regard to the fact that at the two last Coronations the holders of titles of nobility recognised by the Crown in Malta were 20 specially represented by two of their number, he will state why the nobles will not be so represented on this occasion? 

§ Commander Southby (Lord of the Treasury) My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has been asked to take this question. The position is that, with one special exception, namely Ceylon, the number of representatives attending the Coronation from each Colony has been fixed at not more than two. It was felt that, as in the case of all other Colonial dependencies the two representatives from Malta should represent the general community rather than any particular section. I may add that both the representatives selected are actually holders of Maltese titles of nobility recognised by the Crown. 

§ 52. Major Stourton asked the Lord President of the Council the number of seats being reserved for the British Legion, Old Comrades Associations, and similar bodies in the Mall and Constitution Hill to view the Coronation procession; the number of ex-service men who are to be provided with standing room at Hyde Park Corner; the special arrangements to be made for holders of the Victoria Cross; and if the allocations made will be sufficient to allow for representatives of ex-service men's organisations throughout the country to be present? 

§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald)

With regard to the first part of my hon. and gallant Friend's question, I must refer him to my reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) on 10th March last. As regards the arrangements for holders of the Victoria Cross, all those who desire to do so have been enabled to purchase seats on the Government stands and the remainder who wish to be present will be accommodated on chairs in Constitution Hill without charge. The answer to the last part of the question in the affirmative.