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*WH,rsuvj'IDls is the season of the year tlle e the Friendly Societies' Parliaments °U anc^ *n various parts of Great Britain W<*]tinday' ^ie °Pe>t^11o sessions of these Wljj^^cn's congresses were held, at p^t work accomplished during thd P0HitiWelve months was reviewed and the s°cw-)n prospects of the different 'SeCUt'leS Wei'e discussed, with the view of I>i?(w ? even greater progress and more I the r .y^in the time to come. Among ,^c.leties that held their annual ineet- Wh0 i !s week was the Order of Druids. £ fe f Annual Movable Delegation '>een ONVni to hear reports of what had ^nd °Ue consolidate their organisation G Srengtheu t]ie r financial position, isoN, of Newtown, the Grand the past jear, presided at gratif^D^S 8're&t eclat, and it must ^'as him to know that not once ^Peakg j^nf? called into question, and this Pr' ^°r ac^ministrative abilities. flllesti0lrieiJJH^ snb.iect for discussion was the ^assvrp1 Pensions, the Grimd ^eiltativei SKlHAM) introducing a Mane 'SC^eille as adopted by the Hoard t in which he proposed a e hasi° j subscriptions, which, on •>l°vided tb Wee^ from the age of lo. 'llvested + > accumulated funds were w6ek uU 8aiU Per cen^-i should yield ">s ° Per cenT^ageancl a returu 6VeHt 0f i subscriptions paid in the 5fachinp> x? death of a member before 1 pgr. a a»e' He proposed to obtain sooiet^81^' nieans of a co-operative SlJiall »r members only, and to raise or lntfl ^v;orki«g it by means of a ^^lise fmrv,'6^' w^i°^ he calculated should ^pect to7i ,00° to ^3,000. With all ^st ? Pr°tn.oters of this scheme, we ^east ac ifln a system of State-aid is than °Pe^ul asi and much less peril- \r^Uciples' a mf C^eine uPon suc^ novel ^geme f scheme of the Board of met withsome severe criticism, I and. in the result, a resolution affirming that no scheme woald be satisfactory which did not embody principle of State-aid and also provide for existing members of friendly societies, was unanimously agreed to by the dehv and quite rightly too. Mr WALK KB conclusively showed how un- unworkable was the scheme, and the best thing to have done would have been to ask the Board of Management to invent one that shall be workable. Some of the advocates of old-age pensions assume too readily that the question of Old- age Pensions is on all fours with that of national education in respect of suscepti- bility to tentative treatment. We can pro- ceed tentatively in education because one step can be taken at a time, and our liabili- ties in respect- of it are calculable and delini. o. But a gigantic system of State insurance, tentatively started upon an un- .sourfd basis, involves incalculable liabili- ties. which are discovered only after retreat is impossible. There are very great diffi- culties' to be encountered in the habits of our people themselves, and in the agencies alrcally existing. There are financial diffi- culties which the most superficial actuarial examination shows to be enormous while the magnitude of the operations necessary to make the scheme a success itself intro- duces new and incalculable factors. Finally there are social and political objections of a very grave character, which have never yet been adequately discussed, but yet are capable of wrecking the whole scheme and much besides, long before the date at which it wiU come into operation. The Grand Treasurer disagreed with Major PRYCF-JONES'S opinion that owing to the good work which Friendly Societies did in this country, in encouraging thrift and thoughtfulness,- they had a claim on the State, and that therefore Parliament and the country should give them some subvention in return for the great saving they caused the ratepayers. Sir. HIGHAM deprecated State aid without risk of accom- panying State interference. The utter fallacy of this was conclusively proved when Mi. WALKER showed that various friendly societies in the land were not solvent because of the drain upon their funds by members who had passed the age for sixty-five, and when he read to the meeting Mr. CHAMBERLAIN'S last scheme of Old-age Pensions, which was as followsMy proposal is that in return for the cordial assistance of those societies in the great national work of providing for old age, and in recognition of the services which they have already rendered to the people of this country, the Govern- ment should enter into partnership with them in regard to this subject, and that it should offer to halve the expense with them of carrying* this movement to a successful conclusion, and that when they are willing and able to secure to their members a small pension of s 6d a week in their old age, the Government should step in and should meet their efforts by an equal contribution, which would make the pension up to 5s a week." -+- W rrh the near approach of the holiday season the Cambrian Railways Company are again trying to attract visitors to the remote country districts which-have for too long remained unknown save to the adven- turous few. In the old coaching days every traveller had an opportunity of seeing rural Wales, but since the introduction of railways, most of those who are not cyclists have been content to be whirled from point to point without bestowing more than a glance on the passing landscape. To -ex- plore the intervening country or the dis- tricts that are served by mere branch lines has been too difficult, or even impossible for .the ordinary holiday maker. The problem of choosing one out of the many popular resorts," the coast or watering places, and of finding lodgings there, is in itself sufficiently complex, even with the help of excursion trains, guide-books, and obliging friends who have visited the place before. But those who want to spend their holidays in a quiet farmhouse have hitherto had none of these aids. Even if one knew of a pleasant village, the difficulty of getting there, combined with the doubt as to whether it would be possible to stay there, has deterred almost everyone from making the attempt. Onrenterprising Railway Com- pany. which perceived this a year or two is trying to enlighten a public which is pardonably ignorant of its own country. Its excellent officials have prepared lists of the lodgings which may be procured in the districts through which their lines pass, indicating in each case the nature of the surrounding country and the distance of the place from the nearest station, so that the would-be visitor will not be plunging into the unknown. There are many delightful villages in the six counties covered by the Cambrian Railways of which the ordinary tourist would never hear but for these use- ful books. It would be invidious to par- ticulate, but those who wish to explore any special portions of North and Mid Wales will find that their task is now rendered much easier. As the Cambrian Railways Company now extending are their guide, it may be fairly assumed that the idea has found favour with the public. Those who originated it fully deserve their reward. -+- THE agricultural returns for last year have now been published in full by the Board of Agriculture, and they present some interesting features. The shrinkage of cultivated land still continues, there be- ing a net loss in Great Britain of fifty-two thousand acres in the cultivated area. More than five hundred and ten thousand acres less wheat were grown in 1895, though, on the other hand, one-fifth part of the sur- face withdrawn from wheat, rye, pease, and beans re-appears in an extension of the acreage under barley and oats. The actual loss of arable area- in the interval covered by the last two decades, which may be said to cover the agricultural depression, is two million one hundred and thirty-seven thousand acres. This is a stupendous change in the agriculture of the country, and is. in itself, a sufficient answer to the allegations of Sir \V. HAKCOURT that the depression has been exaggerated. When we add that more than one-third of the decline is in the arable area, and more than half of this reduction in the wheat acreage has occurred in the last five years, the case for the Land Hating Bill becomes stronger and stronger. Low and declining values and changed economic conditions fully ex- plain the greater part of the withdrawal of land from the growth of cereals in the last twenty years. It remains to be seen if by co-operation and experiment it will be possible for the British farmer to meet foreign competition in the other branches of agricultural produce. The cattle stocks of Great Britain are slightly more numer- ous than 1894, but the head of sheep is less by a half of one per cent. Pigs show an increase of 21 per cent. During the year ,1895 the price of British wheat per quarter, viz.. Id. was only 3d higher than the and with the e-:c--pliou or quotation which has been reached during the !-•> years for which the annual aver- ages are officially quoted. This all goe> to 1 f' I prove 1 hat a radical change in our fiscal policy is absolutely necessary and that soon ait corn raising in this country will be doomed. Protection will not be listened to we know, but it remains for some remedy to be found for the loss this country sus- tains through the continual decrease in its cereal products. -+-